The National Weather Service out of the Twin Cities has issued a winter storm watch for portions of northwest and west central Wisconsin and central, east central, south central, southeast and southwest Minnesota.  A winter storm watch means there is potential for significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations that may impact travel.

A winter storm is predicted to bring a band of moderate to heavy snow late Sunday evening.  Snowfall totals of 5 to 8 inches are possible by the time the storm exists the region Monday evening.  A wintry mix with freezing rain is possible south of the heavy snow band.  This could lead to slick roads as well. 

Winds will be on the order of 20 to 30 miles per hour which will also cause some blowing and drifting.  The track of the heaviest now will likely change as the forecast is updated over the next couple of days, but be prepared for difficult driving conditions if you have travel plans across central or southern Minnesota.

MnDOT reminds motorists that the average snow plow route in District 8 (southwest and west central MN) is 60 miles, round-trip.  Some routes are considerably longer.  In difficult conditions it can take up to four hours for a snow plow operator to plow a route.  In good conditions it can take two and a half hours to plow a route. 

In general, plows are out from 3 am to 10 pm, longer if conditions require it.  Plow operators have much to monitor and control while on duty, and their ability to see behind them is limited.  Their vision can be hampered by the snow clouds they create while plowing.

Motorists need to reduce distractions.  A plows’ sole purpose is to make the roads as clear and passable as quickly as possible. Motorists should remember to:

• Check road conditions at www.511mn.org or call 511; it takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions.

• Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.

• Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud.

• Stay alert for snowplows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. Plows may also travel over centerlines or partially into traffic to further improve road conditions.

• Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions. Snowplows typically move at slower speeds.

 For additional tips on safe winter driving, go to www.mndot.gov/workzone/winter.html.

For real-time traffic and travel information in Minnesota, visit www.511mn.org

Photo courtesy of the Gary Revier Collection