MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s been nearly two days since a winter storm hit the Twin Cities and other parts of Minnesota, but driving conditions remain extremely difficult on many roads.
Officials said there is some improvement in road conditions as of Saturday morning, but not much. MnDOT crews are doing the best they can, but the combination of the snow and cold temperatures is making it tough to clear roads and highways.
One area that caused a lot of problems for drivers is Interstate 694. A layer of ice on the road turned one area into a parking lot for much of the morning and early afternoon on Friday. Traffic is slow going again all over the Twin Cities Saturday.
Authorities said the worst areas remains south of the metro. The icy roads and blowing snow forced officials to close down a number of state highways and freeways. Some have re-opened, but the driving conditions are still considered dangerous.
Lt. Eric Roeske with the Minnesota State Patrol said since Thursday’s storm started, State Troopers responded to 964 crashes statewide. They’ve also responded to 2,324 vehicles spun out or off the road, 1,082 stalls, 74 jack-knifed semis and 52 motorists needing assistance. They’ve responded to more than 4,400 total calls for service.
Troopers said Friday the driving conditions are the worst they’ve seen in 25 years.
MnDOT is working around the clock to clear the roads.
“Every system is struggling today. City streets, county roads, it’s a parking lot. My driveay,” said Kevin Gutknecht with MnDOT.
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Gutknecht said MnDOT has 200 plows out trying to get the roads in better shape. He said they have upped the amount of salt and brine they’re dumping on the roads, but because it’s so cold the chemicals take longer to work.
“We’re working on it as fast and as hard as we can,” Gutknecht said.
Conditions were so bad in some parts of the state, Gov. Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard. Their orders were to rescue stranded motorists.
Nearly 300 people spent time in shelters set up in the eight counties. All were south and west of the twin cities, where areas experienced blizzard conditions.
Gutknecht said Sunday afternoon they’ll have a better idea of what shape the roads will be in for the Monday morning commute. He said crews are seeing some progress from Friday. In the meantime, the State Patrol and MnDOT are advising to take it slow, be patient and give yourself plenty of extra time out there.
Roeske posted on Twitter Saturday morning that if you’re in doubt of driving, err on the side of caution and stay home at least for Saturday.
Roeske said that since 6 p.m. Friday, State Troopers have responded to 279 crashes statewide. Of those, 28 have been injury accidents but none has been serious or fatal. Roeske said 424 vehicles have gone off the road or spun out, 273 cars have stalled and eight semi-trucks have jack-knifed.
During this last snow fall, there have been nearly 400 tows in St. Paul and 450 in Minneapolis, which has just enacted winter parking restrictions. No parking is allowed in Minneapolis on the even-numbered side of non-snow emergency routes from 8 a.m. Sunday until April 1.