Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

Jan. 28, 2019

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

WILLMAR, Minn. – Minnesota Department of Transportation staff are out clearing and treating roads in southwest Minnesota. Currently, roads are partially covered with some roads 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. Road salt does not work well when temps fall below 15 degrees.

According to the National Weather Service, blowing snow will continue through the Monday morning commute and could impact travel throughout southwest Minnesota with reduced visibility, especially in open areas. Most of southwest Minnesota is currently in a wind chill warning. Dangerous wind chills are expected Tuesday through Thursday. Be aware that weather conditions and advisories may change.

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 511mn.org or call 511; it takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions.
  • Turn your headlights on and cruise control off.
  • 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 mndot.gov/workzone/winter.html.

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.