Blizzard conditions to impact travel throughout southwest Minnesota today
MnDOT reminds drivers to use caution
WILLMAR, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) reminds motorists to plan ahead and practice good winter driving habits as heavy and blowing snow moves through the area today.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Blizzard Warning for most of southwest Minnesota, including Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, Lincoln, Pipestone, Lyon, Murray, Redwood, and Renville counties. Kandiyohi, Meeker and McLeod counties are under a Winter Weather Advisory. According to the NWS, the heaviest snow will occur between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. today. Strong winds and whiteout conditions are likely, especially in open areas, between 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The NWS reports that blizzard conditions exist when the combination of strong wind, low visibility and heavy snowfall significantly impact daily life. Please note the forecast can change throughout the day and that conditions can improve or worsen.
“Our snowplow crews are working continuously to improve travel conditions,” said Craig Gertsema, maintenance operations superintendent. “The one thing that our operators always ask is for motorists to manually turn on their headlights so they can be seen by the plows and other drivers.”
MnDOT advises motorists to check road conditions before traveling. 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.
Motorists can practice good winter driving habits by following these steps:
- Allow extra time to get to your destination.
- Turn your headlights on (not simply the automatic setting) and wear your seatbelt.
- 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.
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 mindful 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 all distractions and concentrate on driving.
For additional tips on safe winter driving, go to www.mndot.gov/workzone/winter.html.