Snowstorm keeps road crews on their toes
WILLMAR -- State and local highway crews were kept busy Monday plowing roads during a storm that dropped about four inches of snow on the area. Brisk winds whipped around the fluffy snow, which caused limited visibility and drifting on roads.
The western part of the state took the worst beating with zero visibility reported at times, said Jeff Butson, operations superintendent at the Minnesota Department of Transportation's District 8 office in Willmar.
MnDOT crews worked until 8:30 p.m. Monday and were scheduled to be back on the road by 3 a.m. today, Butson said.
Crews from the Kandiyohi County Highway Department finished their routes around 4 p.m. Monday and were planning to repeat the routine by 5 a.m. today, depending on the visibility, Public Works Director Gary Danielson said.
Extremely cold temperatures, biting winds and lingering drifts forecast today could mean some schools will be delayed again.
At least two dozen area schools cancelled classes Monday.
Some districts, like Benson and Lac qui Parle, never even attempted to hold classes. Others, like Willmar, New London-Spicer and Brooten-Belgrade-Elrosa brought students to school in the morning but called off school before noon.
Bus drivers didn't report any serious problems getting NLS students home, said Mike Nelson, from Peterson Bus Service of New London.
"It was a slow go," said Nelson, who communicated with school officials before the decision was made to cancel school for the day.
The below-zero temperatures and wind chill of minus 35 will present some dangerous situations for people through the week, said Mike Bardou, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.
"It's just going to be cold," said Bardou, who said people should take care to cover exposed skin when going outdoors. Much of the state will be "in the ice-box until Friday," he said.
Up to five inches of new snow is expected to hit the area again tonight when an Alberta Clipper brings in more cold temperatures and winds, said Bardou.
That means road crews will be back in the plows again.
Although the final figures aren't in, Danielson said snow removal costs for 2008 will be much higher than the average annual cost of $400,000.
By the end of November the county had spent $302,000. By the end of December the figure was at least $525,000.
"You can tell by looking at it that things are bad," said Danielson. January isn't looking very good either.
The more the county spends on snow and ice removal, the less there is for summer constructions projects, he said.
Butson cautioned drivers to be careful traveling. Not only does the stormy weather reduce visibility, but snow plows can kick up "snow clouds" when they clear snow from road shoulders which can cause dangerous visibility issues for on-coming traffic.