December 12, 2020

Warnings and Alerts: Keeping Ahead of the Storm

Minnesotans should listen to a NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio and television for the latest winter storm warnings, watches and advisories. The National Weather Service issues outlooks, watches, warnings and advisories for all winter weather hazards. Here’s what they mean and what to do.  

• OUTLOOK:  Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2-5 days. Stay tuned to local media for updates.

• WATCH:  Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Prepare now!

• WARNING:  Life-threatening severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Act now.

• ADVISORY:  Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If you are cautious, these situations should not be life threatening. Electronic equipment is available to receive weather information: NOAA Weather Radio, radio, television, and cellphone.

The National Weather Service wants to ensure Minnesotans are aware of and prepared for the variety of winter weather we experience.

• Extreme cold

At some point every winter, temperatures in Minnesota drop below zero. Adding even a small wind can drive the wind chill effect down to dangerous levels for anyone exposed to it for very long. The best way to avoid any danger is to stay indoors, but if you do feel the need to venture outdoors, make sure to take proper precautions and know how to spot the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

• Heavy Snow and Ice

Heavy snow can immobilize a region: stranding commuters, closing airports, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services. Accumulations of snow can cause roofs to collapse and knock down trees and power lines. Homes and farms may be isolated for days and unprotected livestock may be lost. The cost of snow removal, repairing damages, and the loss of business can have severe economic impacts on cities and towns.

Winter Driving

Everyone should be cautious about traveling in extreme winter weather. Cold, snow and ice are demanding on cars, drivers and passengers. Most importantly, extreme winter weather can threaten your life.

Winter Survival Kits for Your Vehicle

Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans find themselves stranded on the roadside. Winter weather can kill in mere minutes if an unprepared person exposed to the elements.

Dialing 911 on a Cell Phone

A cell phone is a valuable tool for drivers who witness, or are involved in, emergency situations. Cell phone users on the road must provide dispatchers with specific information about the emergency.

Cellular 911 calls are routed to public safety answering points operated by state or local agencies. Although newer cell phones now provide approximate location or have GPS and callback numbers when 911 is dialed, an exact location may need to be provided by the caller. 

511 Information System 

The 511 Phone Information System provides road safety information 24 hours per day. Landline and cell phone users can call 511 for regional and statewide reports on traffic congestion, road and weather conditions, construction work and other obstacles.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation's  (MnDOT) website features both a dial-up/static site and a high-speed Internet/Google map site with real-time updates. You may also sign up for the Metro Twitter account, which will alert you to any incidents within the Metro area.

Snowplow Safety

The MnDOT snowplow operators are trained, experienced and prepared to assist motorists through another winter season.  

  Last year in Minnesota, there were 72 crashes involving vehicles that hit snowplows.  This is typically caused by inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow or motorists driving too fast for conditions.

 Operators have much to monitor and control, and their ability to see behind them is limited by side mirrors. Their vision can also be hampered by the snow clouds they create while plowing.

Safe driving means:    

• Check road conditions at 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 five car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud. Snowplow operators will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow traffic build-up to pass.

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

• Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions, and give yourself plenty of travel time. Snowplows typically move at slower speeds.

• Buckle up and ensure children are properly secured in the correct child restraint. 

• Avoid unnecessary travel if road conditions are too poor.


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