White out conditions, 13 inches
In the early morning of Monday, Jan. 22, the weather appeared fairly pleasant in south central Minnesota. It took just a matter of hours for all of that to drastically change.
In less than 24 hours, a severe winter snowstorm engulfed the region and dumped over a foot of snow in various areas within the North Star State.
Conditions were so bad, Faribault County public works director Mark Daly says this was the worst weather emergency he has ever seen in his seven-year career as a county engineer.
“Once the wind intensity picked up, it made visibility very poor for our plow trucks,” Daly explains. “Some drivers were at the end of their routes, and they couldn’t even see what they were plowing. The weight of the snow was pretty amazing.”
Citing road safety concerns, Daly decided to remove all 12 of the county’s snow plows off the road by 1 p.m. on Monday. County plowing resumed by 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan 23. With just traces of snow left to contend with on Tuesday morning, Daly estimates all plowing work of county roads was completed by 11 a.m. that morning.
The treacherous driving conditions were problematic for local motorists. From the beginning of the storm on Monday, through 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, on Jan. 23, the Faribault County Sheriff’s Department responded to 28 off-road vehicle incidents. However, the sheriff’s department confirmed there were no reported injuries in these cases.
As Daly explains, road traffic poses one of the greatest safety risks during snow emergencies. Excess vehicle traffic during snow plowing can be a recipe for disaster.
“One of the biggest challenges is getting people to stay off the road,” Daly says. “You don’t want to hit anybody while you’re plowing the roads, so any extra traffic definitely makes it harder.”
While the closings of local schools on Tuesday helped alleviate some traffic concerns, mild winter temperatures before and after the snowstorm has prevented large accumulations of ice.
Despite dealing with this most recent wrath of Mother Nature, Daly believes Faribault County is no worse for wear moving forward.
“If the air temperatures stay decent and the wind isn’t a factor, salt will work in this situation to help melt the snow,” Daly says.
“If there was freezing rain Monday evening, and then the temperatures dropped to 10 degrees or lower, then it would have been very difficult for us to scrape off all the ice. I think the worst of it is over,” he continued.
The storm’s impact was also felt in the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport reported 12.4 inches of snowfall by midnight. This was the largest single-day snowfall recorded at the airport since 2010.
As a result of the wide sweeping snowstorm, 511mn.org’s mobile app indicated travel was not advised along I-90 for as far east as Alden, to as far west as Beaver Creek. Along Highway 169, travel advisory warnings were placed as far north as St. Peter, and as far south as Elmore.
By midday on Monday, the storm had reached its peak, producing approximately three inches of snowfall per hour according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.