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MnDOT, Power Companies Brace For Snow, Freezing Rain

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ST.PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – We’ve been basking in this winter’s warm sunshine, all the while forgetting about the rigors of shoveling snow, but something deep down in some of us said it was too good to be true.

Now, depending on where you live in Minnesota, it will either be umbrellas or snowblowers you’ll have to grab. Winter’s fury is about to return.

WCCO-TV meteorologist Mike Augustyniak said we’ll have to wait and see when it comes to freezing rain.

“It’s the difference between a degree or two that makes a difference between rain and freezing rain,” he said.

Twenty-four hours ahead of the story, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) planners are getting crews lined up and trucks ready. At a truck station in St. Paul, they’re preparing another weapon to combat icy roads. It’s a 1,200-gallon tanker truck fitted with a massive array of spray nozzles.

“This is the first rig we send out onto the roadway,” said Mark Fischbach, MnDOT’s clear roadways superintendent.

Fischbach said the specially equipped truck is one of 12 anti-icing trucks filled with magnesium sodium chloride. The solution is a mixture of salt slurry that is sprayed onto the dry surfaces to pre-treat metro highways.

“Basically, the goal with this truck is to prevent the bond from taking place between the roadway and the freezing precipitation,” Fischbach said.

Freezing rain and heavy, wet snow is also a formula for serious power outages. Tree branches will break under the weight of the coating. When they do, those branches often fall on top of power lines, shorting out the circuits.

So utility companies, like Xcel Energy,get a jump on where to send its crews. In effect, crews are pre-staged well in advance of any storm to get them closer to where problems are most expected.

Xcel’s Mike Boland said the company tries to be as proactive as possibly when dealing with storms.

And if you feel less than prepared yourself, it’s not too late to grab a late season deal on a new snowblower. At the very least, hardware stores like Beisswenger’s in New Brighton still have good supplies of snow shovels and sacks of ice melt.

Mike Risdall’s new snowblower is barely broke in after the this wimpy winter’s unimpressive snowfall total.

“I felt pathetic using it on the snow that I used it on,” he said. “Ran it down the driveway once, and the neighbors made fun of me because there was only (inch hand gesture) that much snow.”

After Tuesday, Risdall’s neighbors might not be laughing.

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