It's two days after the first winter storm walloped Southwest Minneapolis with around 12 inches of snow, and many of the area's side streets are still rutted and slippery despite the ministrations of city plow drivers.
After a three-day waltz of parking and reparking cars to avoid snow emergency tow trucks, the question on many drivers' and cyclists' minds is, of course, "why?"
On the region's highways, the situation is driven by cold temperatures. The Minnesota Department of Transportation addressed the road conditions in a Dec. 11, 2012 statement on the Minnesota Department of Transportation Facebook page:
MnDOT continues addressing the compacted snow and icy conditions on highways and interstates—particularly in southwestern/west central Minnesota and the Twin Cities Metro area. The cold temperatures are complicating our work, because salt becomes much less effective at 10 degrees or lower. Temps will warm over the next couple days, which will make the salt compounds we’ve been putting on the roads MUCH more effective.
County roads and city streets are having the same issue, and those public works departments are working just as hard as MnDOT to get your commutes back to good winter driving condition as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, plow drivers are out there doing everything they can to get rid of that compacted snow before your afternoon commute.
We all will be happy to see the sun (and higher temperatures) tomorrow.
In Minneapolis, said Mike Kennedy of the city's Public Works Department, the situation is complicated by the way the snow arrived, and the city's snow removal plans.
With (relatively) warm pavement beneath the first few flakes, and temperatures hovering around freezing, the snow came down heavy and wet. As temperatures dropped and cars rolled over it, that same snowy, slushy mixture froze into a solid sheet of ice on many blocks, he said.
"That ice pack we have there is pretty much bulletproof," Kennedy said. "You can’t scrape it, you can’t sandblast it."
Add to that the way Minneapolis plans snow removal—lower-speed side streets don't have to be scraped completely clean of snow in the same way highways and main arteries do—and the situation is made worse in residential areas that get fewer visits from each plowing crew.
When this week's warmer temperatures—forecast at 35 degrees Wednesday, 32 on Thursday, and 30 on Friday—start softening the packed snow and road salt do its work, Kennedy said he expected some side streets to get very messy.
"The freeways and even some of our main streets will go clear and dry. What will probably happen on the residential streets is that this thick layer of snowpack and ice will warm up, and fluff up, and look like we’ve never plowed at all," Kennedy told Patch. "But without a snow emergency, we can't plow everything. We'll have to plow around the cars."