Snow falls; winds cause problems

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This semitrailer rolled over Wednesday morning south of Exit 11 on southbound Interstate 35. Traffic was diverted to one lane. --Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Freeborn County got its first sight of snow on Wednesday. Meanwhile, high winds continued to grip Freeborn County, blowing in some major problems with it.

A large gust of wind blew over a Werner Enterprises semitrailer Wednesday morning on Interstate 35 just south of Exit 11 and north of Albert Lea Lake.

The 2010 International rolled onto its driver’s side at 8:20 a.m., blocking the left southbound lane and left shoulder of the interstate.

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Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Gene Arnold said the trailer was empty, and that’s why it was probably more susceptible to the wind.

The semi’s driver, Richard A. Rummage, 46, of Charlotte, N.C., had to be extricated from the cab because of how the semi rolled. He was treated and released at Albert Lea Medical Center.

Rummage’s wife, Marianne B. Rummage, 50, also of Charlotte, N.C., was also treated and released at Albert Lea Medical Center.

As law enforcement officers and firefighters responded at the scene, traffic on southbound Interstate 35 was directed to one lane. All southbound lanes were closed while the semi was uprighted, and the road re-opened at 10:05 a.m., according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

The Minnesota State Patrol, Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office, Albert Lea Police Department and Albert Lea Fire Department assisted at the scene.

According to the National Weather Service, at about 8:30 a.m. there were westerly winds at 22 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.

As the area remained in a high wind advisory for the second day in a row on Wednesday, blustery winter weather was blowing in with it. A chilly mix of rain and snow spattered the area off and on throughout the day.

Temperatures plummeted from 43 degrees at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to 34 degrees at 10:30 a.m. A wind chill factor of 24 degrees made it seem even chillier outside.

“Fall arrived and it arrived quickly,” said KIMT meteorologist Kay Schaefer.

She said to expect the coolest temperatures Wednesday into Thursday, thanks to a low pressure center circulating cold air in from Canada.

“The precipitation is very light stuff if you even see it, and we expect no accumulations,” she said.

Winds were expected to begin tapering off Wednesday evening, slowing Thursday morning to the teens. It’s still windy, but the wind advisories are gone.

Al Stadheim of the Alliant Energy office in Albert Lea said high winds caused tree limbs to fall on power lines around 8 a.m. Wednesday, affecting a handful of customers.

He said service to one customer was impacted within the city limits, and another four customers were without power for a short period of time south of town.

Stadheim wanted to remind people of the dangers of downed power lines.

“Stay away from any downed power lines and call us immediately,” he said.

Freeborn County Sheriff Mark Harig wasn’t aware of any other accidents or damages reported due to high winds, but cautioned drivers to be extra careful of crosswinds on overpasses. He specifically warned drivers about Interstate 90 west of Albert Lea, at the 150-mile marker, on the County Road 12 overpass.

“Those high winds coming in at an angle can really cause problems, especially to semitrailers hauling empty loads,” he said.

The weather station at the Albert Lea airport measured Wednesday’s highest wind speeds at 29 mph at 2 p.m., with gusts of 43 mph shortly before noon.

Schaefer also anticipated a high pressure system to move through by Friday, warming things up again. “We’re hoping to reach the 50-degree mark, and then things will look to stay pretty mild,” she said.

She said the average temperature for this time of year is about 54 degrees.

Wednesday was the second day the area was under a high wind advisory.

On Tuesday, the weather station at the Albert Lea airport reported the strongest sustained winds at 1:30 p.m., reaching 25 mph. However, the strongest gusts the station recorded on Tuesday were near 7 p.m., when gusts hit 42 mph.