MEDINA, Minn. — The first major snow event of the season has public works mechanics and plow drivers across the state fired up Tuesday, just waiting for the flakes to start flying and get on the road.
At the Hennepin County garage in Medina most of the trucks have plows hung and sanders mounted to handle what should be several inches of wet, heavy snow. There's a mountain of salt piled up in a shed out back, and operations manager Andy Kraemer says his crew is ready to clear the 2,200 lane miles of county roads.
During an event like the one predicted for Tuesday, which could bring 4 inches of snow or more to parts of Hennepin County, it's an all-hands on deck situation. But like it has impacted many parts of life, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing plow planners to adapt. Kraemer says he's been coordinating with other agencies, both state and local, to arrange road coverage just in case.
"Let's say if we lose a truck station, and people have to quarantine, they're willing to help us," Kraemer told KARE 11's Kiya Edwards on Sunrise. "Same with us."
On a statewide level the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is responsible for keeping 30,585 lane miles of state highways and interstates clear and safe for motorists. More than 1,800 full and part time drivers will pilot 840 snowplows through an average Minnesota winter. They work out of 150 truck stations statewide, including 19 in the Twin Cities metro.
That's not to say that drivers don't have a role in arriving at their destinations safe and sound. Here are some suggestions from MnDOT to protect both motorists and their plow team.
- Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.
- Turn off your cruise control.
- Slow down; allow at least 10 car lengths between your vehicle and a plow.
- Stay behind the snowplow. The road behind a snowplow is safer to drive on.
- Watch for snowplows that turn or exit frequently, and often with little warning.
- Never drive into a snow cloud.
MnDOT is also urging drivers to make sure their cars are in top condition for cold weather and snow to avoid breakdowns, dress for colder temps, and to have a scraper and emergency kit in every vehicle. Bottom line, whether you're navigating local, county, or state roads and highways, be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for all motorists.