Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

December 29, 2017

Plows out clearing roads in southwest Minnesota – chemicals less effective with bitter cold temperatures

WILLMAR, Minn. – Minnesota Department of Transportation staff are out clearing roads and applying chemicals in southwest Minnesota.  Currently, roads are partially covered with some roads becoming completely covered. 

During or after the snowfall, vehicle tires pack down snow on the road. If the temps are below freezing, the compacted snow freezes and forms a layer of ice. As more snow falls, the cycle continues and the layer of ice thickens.  Trucks continue to plow, but the blade is less effective on compacted snow.  Chemicals do not work well when temps fall below 15 degrees. Temperatures are expected to be between 35 to 40 degrees below zero with the wind chill this evening, according to the National Weather Service.

MnDOT reminds motorists that the average snow plow route in District 8 (southwest and west central MN) is sixty miles, round-trip.  Some routes are considerably longer.  In difficult conditions it can take up to four hours for a snow plow operator to plow a route.  In good conditions it can take two and a half hours to plow a route.

The public can view winter road conditions from plow cameras available through the 511mn.org website.  Please note that not all plows have cameras.  Road conditions on major highways can also be viewed through the Road Weather Information System (RWIS), which is also part of 511. These are fixed cameras at 91 locations across the state that show live rotating photos.  While the RWIS cameras show a small area of the road, the plow cameras show real-time road conditions as snowplows plow their routes. 

Motorists need to reduce distractions.  A plows’ sole purpose is to make the roads as clear and passable as quickly as possible. Motorists should remember to:

  • Check road conditions at www.511mn.org or call 511; it takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions.
  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
  • Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud.
  • Stay alert for snowplows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. Plows may also travel over centerlines or partially into traffic to further improve road conditions.
  • Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions. Snowplows typically move at slower speeds.

For additional tips on safe winter driving, go to www.mndot.gov/workzone/winter.html.

For real-time traffic and travel information in Minnesota, visit www.511mn.org or get the free smartphone app at Google Play or the App Store.

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