MnDOT District 8 prepares for winter storm
WILLMAR, Minn. — Minnesota Department of Transportation staff are preparing for a winter storm scheduled to hit the area Wednesday, Jan. 10 through Thursday, Jan. 11. Travel impacts are possible from late Wednesday into Thursday due to a wintry mix of precipitation followed by accumulating snow according to the National Weather Service, which has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the area.
Total snowfall predictions vary, but motorists should prepare for changing weather conditions. Impacts include snow/blowing snow and temperatures well below the freezing mark by Thursday morning which could worsen road conditions for the Thursday morning commute.
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.
To access the plow cameras, go to 511mn.org and click on plow cameras on the left menu. A window will open to show photos and a map where the plow is. Underneath the current photo and map is a “film strip”, showing images every five minutes. The camera will activate when the plow is going at least 10 miles per hour. Images will be displayed for two hours. The active trucks displayed on 511 only represent a portion of MnDOT’s fleet for snow and ice and other maintenance activities.
To access the Road Weather Information System, go to 511mn.org and click on cameras on the left menu. Click on the camera at the location you wish to view. A window will open to show photos and current weather and road conditions.
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.
In general, plows are out from 3 am to 10 pm, longer if conditions require it. Plow operators have much to monitor and control while on duty, and their ability to see behind them is limited. Their vision can be hampered by the snow clouds they create while plowing.
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.
- 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.