ST PAUL, Minn. — The folks at the Minnesota Department of Transportation say they're ready to tackle the roads during the first major winter weather emergency in the state, set to begin midday Friday.
But just how smoothly things go depends entirely on how many motorists decide to drive while the snow's still falling, and how they drive.
"If you don’t have to drive, don’t do it," MnDOT's Anne Meyer told KARE.
"You can stay off the roads and out of our way that allows our crews to get a lot of work done. If people are driving on it that creates compaction of the snow, which will create delays clearing the roads."
While some cities and states have been hampered by labor shortages caused by COVID or retirements, Minnesota's full fleet of 800 snowplows will be available and there will be more than enough drivers to cover all the routes.
"Most of our snowplow drivers are full time, so they’ll mow grass and do maintenance work in the summertime and then shift to snowplow operations once winter hits," Meyer explained.
And, despite all the news about supply chain disruptions, MnDOT's road salt suppliers in Kansas were ready to ship plenty of that product to Minnesota when the fiscal year began in July. The agency spent the summer months restocking its salt and brine supplies.
"What drivers can do to help this is stay off the roads. And, if you do have to drive, slow down. That’s really going to help a lot. Also keep a good space between yourself and other drivers."
We heard the same thing from the public works departments for Hennepin County, Ramsey County, St. Paul and Minneapolis. They have plenty of material on hand and currently aren't experiencing the snowplow driver shortage that has plagued other areas.
St. Paul has added a new online tool this year to help residents navigate the Capital City's snow emergency rules. It's a new Snow Emergency Parking Map at www.stpaul.gov/snow that can tell residents the current parking restrictions for their exact location. The city's snow emergency information is available in English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali.
The relatively mild month of November left most state agencies well positioned to respond to the first major storm. Supply chain issues may become a factor if the winter ends up being prolonged with an extraordinary number of snow emergencies.
The supply of drivers may be affected by how the Omicron variant of COVID-19 behaves as it moves across the nation and Minnesota.
MnDOT has taken added precautions to protect employees from COVID, which is one of the reasons Meyer met our crew on a bridge over I-94 Thursday instead of going to the snowplow shed.