Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

New Year’s thankfulness January 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:57 AM
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The sun begins to set as we drive west on Interstate 90 near St. Charles on New Year's Day.

FOR EVERY MILE WEST my husband and I drove Sunday afternoon, I felt as if the bully wind shoved us two miles back east into Wisconsin. The wind, raging in from the northwest on January 1, seemed that forceful. It was a long 300-mile drive back to Minnesota from our daughter’s Appleton, Wisconsin home, bucking winds of 30 – 45 mph, at our estimate.

Whipped by strong winds, snow sweeps across farm fields along I-90 in southern Minnesota Sunday afternoon.

Despite the powerful winds, I was thankful for the minimal snow cover. Any more snow than the two inches or less covering the ground between eastern Wisconsin and our southern Minnesota home, and we would have been stranded in Appleton. As it was, the occasional snow squall reminded us just how quickly visibility can become an issue.

Not until we reached the two-lane section of U.S. Highway 14 between Dodge Center and Owatonna, on the final stretch of our journey, did drifting snow sometimes become a concern. The highway wasn’t blown shut, but conditions left me wishing we’d taken our usual U.S. Highway 52 from Rochester to Zumbrota then State Highway 60 to Faribault route.

Despite the gas-sucking travel on Sunday, we drove on mostly snow-free roadways, a bonus on a weekend when two separate snowfalls created occasionally hazardous driving conditions through-out Minnesota and Wisconsin.

High winds pushed eastbound traffic, like this car, along I-90 late Sunday afternoon.

Late Friday morning while traveling along Interstate 90 east of Rochester, we encountered a partially-closed traffic lane due to an earlier accident. A flat-bed semi trailer was parked along the east-bound shoulder with the driver loading debris scattered in the median.

We would learn upon our return Sunday evening that a family member was injured in a crash with an enclosed semi along I-90 on Friday morning. We’re not sure whether the scene we passed by was the site of the accident involving our nephew’s wife. But we do know that Heidi was traveling from Winona to work in Rochester when her car hit an icy patch as she was changing lanes, spun out of control into a semi and was then struck by a pick-up truck.

She had to be cut out of her car.

Thankfully, Heidi was not seriously injured and is apparently going to be OK. She was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, where she was diagnosed with a concussion and held overnight for observation. She’s bruised, sore and now back home recovering.

Heidi’s car, according to her mother-in-law (my sister-in-law) did not fare so well. The passenger side was pushed in and the back end was shoved into the back seat leaving only the driver’s seat, where Heidi was sitting, intact.

That’s how bad this accident was in terms of potential for serious injury, or death.

You can bet my extended family is offering prayers of thanksgiving that Heidi, the mother of two young children, survived, and survived without serious injury.

“The Lord,” says my sister-in-law, “was with her (Heidi) all the way.”

The County Road 32 overpass over I-90 near St. Charles slices across the wide sky as the sun sets on Sunday.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling