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State officials urge motorists to prepare for storm, winter's onset

The message sent today is simple: Be prepared when heading out on the road, and if conditions warrant, delay or cancel your plans.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Just hours from the arrival of Minnesota's first major snow event of the season, officials from the Departments of Transportation and Public Safety are urging drivers to be both physically and mentally prepared for a difficult Thanksgiving travel week. 

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for much of central, northeast and southern Minnesota, and a Winter Weather Advisory for several additional Minnesota counties. 

Forecasts suggest some areas of the state could get between 6 and 9 inches beginning Tuesday afternoon, and wind gusts of 35 to 40 miles per hour could complicate things, causing blowing snow and whiteout conditions.

RELATED: Metro snow forecast is between 5 and 10 inches

The message sent today is simple: Be prepared when heading out on the road, and if conditions warrant, delay or cancel your plans. MnDOT is encouraging motorists to check conditions on their route, and look at live traffic cameras along the way.  

"We want motorists to be prepared for the changing road conditions to be sure their drive is safe and uneventful this holiday weekend,” said Jed Falgren, acting MnDOT state maintenance engineer. “When driving near snowplows, motorists should remember to be patient and give our operators room to work so that they can improve road conditions.”

Here are some more things MnDOT wants drivers to keep in mind. 

  • Don’t drive distracted.
  • Stay alert for snowplows, which turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.
  • Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow. Don’t drive into a snow cloud.
  • Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions. 
  • Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.
  • Turn off the cruise control.
  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
  • Make sure drivers and everyone in the vehicle are dressed for the cold weather, and keep blankets, water, food, phone chargers and an emergency kit packed. 

Motorists are also encouraged to move over for emergency vehicles that may be responding to crashes and spinouts. 

  • When traveling on a road with two or more lanes, drivers must keep one full lane away from stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights activated - ambulance, fire, law enforcement, maintenance, construction vehicles and tow trucks.
  • Reduce speed if unable to safely move over a lane.
  • Failing to take these actions endangers personnel who provide critical and life-saving services. Fines can exceed $100.

“Please help keep us safe on the road by always putting the distractions away, focusing on the road and always moving over for emergency vehicles,” said Lt. Gordon Shank, Minnesota State Patrol. “Remember, this will not only keep emergency responders safe on the road, but it’ll keep you and your loved ones safe as well.”

RELATED: Airlines issue travel waivers ahead of storm

RELATED: Snow plows getting ready to hit the streets in advance of winter storm

RELATED: Impending snow could make for stressful Thanksgiving travel

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