Snowplows get ready

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Minnesota’s snowplow drivers are getting ready for what Gordon Regenscheid says looks like a “substantial storm” Friday into Saturday.

Regenscheid manages snowplow operations for the DOT’s Mankato district; covering 13 countries in southern Minnesota. He says while the public focuses mainly on what the trucks do during the storm, plow drivers spend a lot of time getting ready for the snow.

One thing they do in advance are anti-icing operations. Regenscheid says drivers lay down a salt brine on roadways before the storm begins.The water evaporates, leaving a thin layer of salt. The salt helps prevent snow from sticking to the pavement, making it easier to plow the stuff.

Regenscheid says drivers also spend pre-storm hours going over their equipment, fixing anything that might break down on the road.

In all, the state has about 900 snowplows ready to go, including 83 in the Mankato district. All of the drivers receive some kind of training each year. New drivers get two weeks of intensive instruction.

Experienced drivers might make do with what Regenschied describes as a “very sophisticated video game” — the snowplow simulator. Drivers grip a steering wheel watching three 42-inch monitors projecting front and side views. The simulator is programmed to give drivers experience with different weather and traffic conditions. “It responds like you’re driving a plow”, says Regenschied, who adds that it helps keep drivers in tune with the experience of snowplowing during the off-season.

He says that training comes in handy during a storm when drivers have multiple blades and operations to monitor.

“There’s a front plow, a side wing plow, an under-body plow, a sander, the speed of the truck, the lights, the road conditions, so they’ve got a lot of things to pay attention to,” says Regenschied.

With up to 10 inches of snow forecast in the up-coming storm, Regenschied says motorists should be on the watch for snowplows. He trots out all the DOT slogans he can think of as a way to appeal to drivers to be careful.

“Don’t crowd the plow”, “arrive alive”, “give ’em room to work” are a few.

The main thing he says is for drivers to use some common sense. He says during a storm, the roadway behind a plow is always much more driveable than the path in front of the machine.

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