OLIVIA, Minn. – Weather and road conditions were so bad in west-central Minnesota's Renville County Thursday night, Feb. 7, that the Minnesota National Guard was activated by the governor's state of emergency declaration to rescue motorists who were stranded in vehicles in subzero temperatures.
Gov. Tim Walz ordered the National Guard unit in Olivia to provide assistance in rescuing stranded motorists with their specialized vehicle and equipment and to provide emergency relief services by opening and staffing the Olivia armory as a shelter for stranded motorists, he said.
Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable said in a news release that U.S. Highway 71 north of Olivia was “completely impassable by conventional vehicles,” and the National Guard Unit conducted two separate rescue missions during the night with special equipment called the SUSV Tracked Vehicle.
Hable said eight people were rescued and brought to the armory in Olivia, where a total of 18 motorists took shelter during the night.
The county was in the path of a large winter storm Thursday with high winds causing blizzard conditions, including several hours of zero or near-zero visibility for motorists.
Throughout Thursday evening and into the early morning hours of Friday, he said Renville County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers took multiple reports of vehicles off of the roadway or stuck in drifts on the roadway, most of which had their occupants stranded inside.
Officers from the Renville County Sheriff’s Office and several police departments in Renville County spent several hours attempting to reach the stranded motorists and bringing them to safety, but as local shelters in the Olivia area filled up, a request was made for assistance from the National Guard.