MnDOT: We're ready for the snow

1:01 PM, Dec 8, 2012   |    comments
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SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The first snowfall of the weekend led to a series of spinouts, crashes and traffic jams Friday evening.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, effective from late Saturday to late Sunday, for the Twin Cities metro area. It includes the possibility of four to seven inches of snow and the chance of blowing and drifting snow on Sunday.

Meanwhile, over 230 Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDot) trucks are ready for action, anticipating the first big snowfall of the winter season. MnDOT was determined not to be caught unawares by slippery conditions as they were in early November.

"We had crews out the last couple of days, anti-icing the roadways. They have been going over troubled areas such as bridges, curves, any hazard areas that we have icy problems," said Mark Fischbach, MnDot Metro Clear Roads Manager.

MnDot's 425 drivers have been put on 12-hour shifts beginning Friday at noon, according to Fischbach. All of this is in the wake of the 16 anti-icing crews spreading brine solution earlier in the week.

Eden Prairie has a smaller number of trucks, just 58, but there is a new system in place aiming to make those vehicles more responsive and efficient.

"What is new for us is, in the last couple of weeks, we have installed a new Road and Weather Information System," said Robert Ellis, Eden Prairie Public Works Director. "What the system does, is it takes still photographs so that you can see actually what the conditions are in the field."

However, the system does much more than that. It measures things like air temperature, the level of grip on the road and the surface temperature. Then, when conditions deteriorate, the system sends a text message to the control center in the city's Maintenance barns, alerting them to the need to deploy the trucks. Eden Prairie is the first Minnesota city to have the system.

"We were fortunate to have a partnership with MnDot and the University of Minnesota. They partnered with a $10,000 grant to help us pay for the installation of the system," said Ellis.

The information is gathered by a weather station on Viking Drive near Eden Prairie Center Drive and relayed to a large screen in the control center. There is also a display showing the locations of all 58 city plows and trucks. That system, based on GPS devices, has been in place for a couple of years.

The new Road and Weather Information System will help Eden Prairie decide where and when to send the trucks.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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