Winter storm expected to impact southwest and west central Minnesota
WILLMAR, Minn. – Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) staff are preparing for the mixed precipitation forecast for southwest and west central Minnesota and predicted to begin later today. Travel impacts are possible from this evening into Sunday and early Monday according to the National Weather Service, which has issued a Winter Storm Warning for much of southwestern Minnesota.
Motorists should prepare for changing weather conditions. Potential impacts include freezing rain and icing into Saturday, with precipitation turning to snow. Reduced visibility from accumulated and blowing snow is possible from late Saturday morning into Sunday afternoon. Strong north winds could worsen road conditions.
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.
The average snow plow route in District 8 (southwest and west central Minn.) is sixty miles, round-trip. Some routes are considerably longer. In good conditions it can take two and one-half hours to clear a route. In difficult conditions it can take up to four hours. In general, plows are out from 3 a.m. to 10 p.m., longer if conditions require. Be aware that it takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions.
A plow’s sole purpose is to make the roads as clear and passable as quickly as possible. Plow operators have much to monitor and control while on duty, and their ability to see behind them is limited. They travel more slowly than the posted speeds as it is more effective for clearing snow. Their vision can be hampered by the snow clouds they create while plowing, so MnDOT urges motorists to reduce distractions, slow down and stay back.
While MnDOT staff prepare for snow and ice control, motorists can also prepare for winter weather driving by following these steps:
- Check road conditions before your trip. For real-time traffic and travel information in Minnesota, visit 511mn.org or get the free smartphone app at Google Play or the App Store.
- Allow extra time to get to your destination.
- Be patient behind the wheel and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions.
- Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind a plow, far from the snow cloud.
- Stay alert for snowplows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. Anticipate that plows may also travel over centerlines or partially into traffic to further improve road conditions.
- Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.
- No texting, emailing, or internet while driving – it’s the law.
For additional tips on safe winter driving, go to mndot.gov/workzone/winter.html
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