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Walz issues emergency executive orders to National Guard, MnDOT and State Patrol for storm prep

The orders, requested by Maj. General Shawn Manke, allows the agencies to put equipment and personnel in place to deal with potential rescues and emergencies.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Acting on a request from the head of the Minnesota National Guard, Governor Tim Walz on Tuesday issued emergency executive orders that allow a number of state agencies to coordinate and deal with this week's winter storm. 

While holding a press conference on affordable child care, Walz took questions on preparations for the approaching storm, which has the potential to drop nearly two feet of snow on areas of southern Minnesota. 

"It seems like the storm is going to be serious today… Minnesotans don’t panic, and we don’t overreact, but we also understand that weather can be dangerous, so we take it seriously," Walz told reporters. 

The governor confirmed he issued the emergency executive orders to the National Guard, MnDOT and the State Patrol after a request from Maj. General Shawn Manke. The orders allow the agencies to start coordinating things like highway rescue plans in advance, so they're ready to respond jointly if things get serious. 

"What they’ll do now, they’ll begin to preposition equipment, put folks on alert, doesn’t mean they’ll bring em in, doesn’t mean they’ll put em on. But they’re starting to alert the numbers they’ll need," Walz said. "Those folks will be getting the calls this morning since we put that out, they’ll be ready to go and as this thing starts to materialize is we cut off, that pre-planning is already done, and they’re ready to go."

Staff Sgt. Zakry Krenz is the facility manager for the National Guard’s Owatonna Armory. He’ll be spending the night to make sure the building and his team are ready to host dozens of stranded people.

"There are only so many rooms and hotels in the local area," said Krenz. "For us to be able to open up our doors in the facility, it's very important, especially for the families that are out with their children as well."

Krenz not only ensures the armory can be used as a shelter but also ensures that Owatonna's Small Unit Support Vehicle is ready at a moment's notice.

After nine years in the guard, he still gets excited to drive it. 

"Every single time," he said. "You never know what you're going to get into."

It can fit up to 10 passengers and four emergency responders and goes everywhere within Steele County that no one else can reach. The Minnesota National Guard has 17 SUSVs.

The governor noted that some Minnesotans tend to downplay weather events, living in a climate that regularly serves up weather extremes. But he encouraged residents to be stocked up on essentials, have a plan should power go out, and monitor conditions that could change dramatically over the next three days. 

"They’re telling us this could be a pretty serious storm. So we prepare accordingly, we’re ready for it, the good news is Minnesota has all the capabilities in terms of equipment, Blizzo’s on the road this year, so that’s good," Walz said, referencing a snowplow that now bears the name of a MnDOT contest winner based on Grammy-winning musical artist Lizzo. 

Commissioner of Transportation Nancy Daubenberger noted that MnDOT has more than 800 snowplows and 1,600 drivers across the state ready to keep interstates and highways clear and safe. 

“Our crews are prepared and ready, and will be working tirelessly day and night to keep highways as safe for travel as possible," said Daubenberger in a released statement. "We urge Minnesotans to plan ahead, stay home if you can, and check 511MN.org for latest road conditions near you.”

Minnesota State Patrol officials will discuss their storm response plan Tuesday afternoon, but offered these suggestions in advance. 

  • Get familiar with the forecast and sign up for personal weather alerts.
  • Pack a winter survival kit, that includes boots, extra jackets, gloves, blankets, a cell phone charger, flashlight with spare batteries, bottled water and snacks, booster cables, basic tools, sand or cat litter, a red bandana, a pencil and paper.
  • Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.
  • If the conditions are too poor, do not travel unless it is necessary.
  • Increase stopping distance between vehicles.
  • Use extra precautions when driving near snowplows by keeping at least 10 car-lengths behind plows. Stay alert as they may turn or exit frequently and often with little warning.
  •  Move over for flashing lights, as law enforcement, tow trucks and other emergency vehicles will be assisting motorists who are involved in crashes or become stranded.

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