The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 20, 2013

Road crews preparing for winter storm to hit area

Edie Schmierbach
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — As meteorologists were watching a storm system move across the country Wednesday, Mankato’s street department employees were filling brine tanks on snowplows.

City crews also were preparing for today’s predicted heavy snowfall by pre-treating Mankato’s major arteries and hills with a chemical brine that makes snow removal easier and makes driving in town a less-slick experience for motorists.

Jim Braunshausen, Mankato’s street department supervisor, said the plan is to apply the solution before almost every snow event that heads this way.

“This is a full-blown event we are expecting,” Branshausen said of the impending storm.

Minnesota Public Radio’s meteorologist Paul Huttner forecasted the heaviest accumulation in the state will fall in south-central Minnesota with a possible 5 to 7 inches from Blue Earth County to the Iowa border.

Snow will move into southern Minnesota Thursday night and slowly tamper off Friday.

While the city of Mankato crews will be taking care of the streets, residents should take care to watch for alerts about where to park vehicles if heavy snow is dumped on Mankato.

Braunshausen’s department decides whether or not to declare a snow emergency for the city.

 “We always have everything ready to go,” said Shelly Schulz, public information director for Mankato. “It all starts with our public works department.”

To get the word out, the city uses its webpage, Facebook and Twitter. Residents may sign up to receive text message alerts by visiting the city of Mankato website: www.mankato-mn.gov/.

Minnesota Department of Transportation District 7 crews also were busy Wednesday pre-treating highways in area towns, especially bypasses and bridges.

Knowing when to send out the snowplow/truck crews and when to apply road chemicals is partly serious science and partly a guessing game, said Tom Zimmerman, the district’s supervisor of roads.

This season MnDOT workers have had the challenge of freezing rains and drizzle throughout 13 counties in south-central and southwestern Minnesota.

“It’s not been a hard winter, but this winter’s been hard on the salt budget,” said Tom Zimmerman, the district’s supervisor of roads.

The storm should be one of the kind we are used to — a “true” snow storm with dry flakes blowing around, Zimmerman predicted.

Some MnDOT staff were kept busy Wednesday offering media representatives hands-on demonstrations of its snowplow simulator, the equipment used to teach its drivers how to clear winter roads.

Motorists should use extra caution when they are driving near snowplows, MnDOT advises.

The State Patrol said a motorist on Monday tried to drive between a snowplow and a semi and was hit by a pickup truck during blizzard-like conditions on Interstate 94 near Barnsville. The driver and one of her passengers were killed, and the other passenger was seriously injured.

MnDOT cautions driver to be patient and remember a slow-moving snowplow is working to improve road conditions. Stay back at least five car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud. Snowplow operators will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow traffic buildup to pass.

Drivers also should not tailgate the plow or attempt to pass in a white-out condition. Snowplows may turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They may also travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.

For additional tips on safe winter driving, visit to www.mndot.gov/workzone. For updated information on road conditions, visit www.511mn.org or call 511.