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Post Bulletin
     February 25, 2019      #42-56 PB1 4
The Latest: MnDOT still working to clear roads,
The Latest: MnDOT still working to clear roads, sheriffs issue warning

By Emily Cutts

Patience will be required for the next few days as plows work to clear roads of snow drifts in the region.

“We need people to stay put and hold on. We want to get the roads open as fast as possible and we want to make sure they are safe,” Mike Dougherty, a spokesman for Minnesota Department of Transportation District 6, said.

Once the roads are open, Dougherty cautioned that motorists still need to travel at slower speeds. He said all it takes to cause another road closure is a spinout on a road that is partially open. And if the road is closed, don’t use it.

“That is where we ran into problems,” Dougherty said recalling an incident on U.S. Highway 63 south of Rochester. “People get out on roads that are marked as closed and they get into trouble and then, either they are stranded by themselves or other vehicles crash in. It creates a lot of challenges for law enforcement, MnDOT.”

Clearing the roads will be a strategic effort as crews need more than just a plow to reopen roads. In some cases, blowers and motor graders are needed as well as chemical treatments on the roads to break up compacted snow and ice. Large snow drifts also present an issue. Dougherty said that one plow driver reported a drift on Interstate 90 that was a mile-long. MnDOT crews were working to clear major highways, such as Interstate 35 and I-90, before moving to smaller highways such as U.S. Highway 52 and U.S. Highway 14.

“It will be a multi-day process, depending on where you live,” Dougherty said.

Almost all of the district’s 101 plows have been out, and operators have been working in shifts around the clock to clear the roads. Reinforcements from MnDOT’s metro district are also being sent down in the form of equipment and personnel.

Despite the ongoing efforts, Dougherty said it was hard say how long clean-up would take and recommended motorists monitor 511mn.org for up-to-date road conditions.

Much of the traffic map in southeastern Minnesota was covered in road closures this morning.

On social media, local sheriff’s departments continued to issue warnings to residents about the road conditions.

The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook page shortly after 9:20 a.m. “The few roads that are fully open are snow packed and extremely slippery. If you must be out … buckle up, turn on your headlights for safety, move over for emergency lights and plows. … and SLOW DOWN! Also clear all your windows and snow off your vehicle BEFORE you leave!!”

Around 7:15 a.m., the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office cautioned on its Facebook page that travel was still not advised in the county as many roads were impassible.

“If you do not have an emergency, please don’t travel,” the post read. “It’s going to take several hours to get some of the drifts open; with the wind we’ve received over the last day, the drifts are like concrete. Please be patient.”

That message was reiterated by Sgt. Kirby Long who wrote in an email that numerous vehicles stuck in the middle of many roadways were slowing down plowing operations.

“Tow trucks, plow trucks and squad cars are having a hard time getting around and are getting stuck as well,” Long wrote. “The sheriff’s office is working with the plows and tow services to get vehicles removed so the roadways can be opened up. It’s going to take time.”

The Wabasha Police Department may have had the most shocking news to share Monday morning with its Facebook post. In three hours, the post had been shared nearly 3,500 times.

“The road conditions are still terrible. Please do not drive unless there is an absolute emergency. There is currently a tank, yes a literal military tank, that got stuck on our roads last night when the National Guard was trying to help stranded motorists. If a tank cannot make it you probably should not try.”

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Emily is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. A Minnesota native, Emily worked at two newspapers in New England before returning to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in July 2018.