City of Mankato maintenance crews responded to the first snow emergency of the season Wednesday with poster-boy work ethics, a mall blitzkrieg, and... sweet corn trucks?

“We contract with 10 or 12 of them,” street department foreman Jim Braunshausen said of the big-boxed vehicles that are ideal for hauling away snow from downtown parking lots.

That effort began about 11 p.m. Wednesday in the wake of a Christmas Day snowfall that deposited 4 to 6 inches in the Mankato/North Mankato area, and like amounts in area towns.

The snow emergency was called at 5 a.m. Wednesday, under conditions Braunshausen deemed “perfect.”

With schools and colleges in recess for the holiday, plows were able to move relatively unfettered throughout the day.

For crews, that meant a 2:30 a.m. start utilizing the city’s 24 plows and with all hands on deck — even the seven or so employees who had requested vacation that day.

“Everyone came in for this,” Braunshausen said. “They’ll say, ‘Call me if something happens.’ Everyone’s got a really good work ethic that way.”

Among the first orders of business was clearing snow from the River Hills Mall area in time for arriving hordes of post-Christmas shoppers.

“We really attacked the mall area because we knew a lot of those stores would be opening early,” Braunshausen said.

The snow emergency meant an 8 p.m. start for the towing of vehicles illegally parked on city streets, though that scenario was mitigated with Minnesota State classes in recess.

“It helps to have the college kids gone, and hopefully those who left cars on the street also left keys with friends here,” Braunshausen said.

Neither North Mankato nor St. Peter called snow emergencies.

Tom Zimmerman, maintenance superintendent for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Mankato, said his crew’s snowplowing schedule is unaffected by the school holiday, though the decrease in morning-commute traffic is a boon to plow operators.

“We operate under the same time frame, because the pressure to keep roads open is just as great from the business community as from the schools,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said staff on vacation this week doesn’t affect plowing regimens nearly as much as MnDOT’s ongoing fiscal constraints.

“We’re staffed as best as we can be under the current budget, but at times there’s not enough people to staff two shifts,” he said.

Zimmerman also issued a plea to drivers: Slow way down when encountering “snow clouds” produced by plows kicking up fluffy powder of Wednesday’s ilk.

He said that situation led to a plow being rear-ended by a semi Wednesday near Adrian.

Wednesday’s foul driving conditions also contributed to numerous vehicles sliding off roads.

A spokesman for Affordable Towing of Mankato said that firm pulled about 25 cars from area highway ditches.

MnDOT reported that driving conditions are good on Mankato-area highways, though motorists should beware of icy patches.

Today’s forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of snow after midnight, and continuing into Friday, with accumulations of 1 or 2 inches.

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