Minnesota Power, MNDOT prepare for ice this weekend

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As we brace ourselves for messy winter weather this weekend, Minnesota Power is preparing for the threat of ice on power lines.

“We definitely want our customers to know that Minnesota Power crews are ready and poised to respond in case there are outages to the infrastructure itself, you know, the poles and wires that we use to deliver power to 145,000 customers across northeastern Minnesota,” said Manager of Corporate Communications Amy Rutledge.

The forecast calls for heavy, wet snow and up to a quarter of an inch of ice for portions of Minnesota. Areas in Northern Wisconsin may see as much as three-tenths of an inch of ice. The strength of the power lines, however, will not be the issue.

“Our system is built to withstand about half an inch of ice in about 40 mile per hour winds,” Rutledge explained. “Of course, those same rules don’t apply to trees and branches, and that’s really where we can see the issues, is that that buildup of ice, combined with that heavy wet snow can cause trees or branches to fall on our power lines and cause outages.”

Preparations for this type of weather event are done well in advance.

“We are always investing in our infrastructure. We’re investing in replacing aging poles and wires to really ensure reliability of our service and certainly our vegetation management program, as well as a really proactive way to remove trees that may be in danger of coming down under lines,” Rutledge explained. “So Minnesota Power is always taking steps to ensure that we’re minimizing the number of outages or mitigating the duration of them.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation feels ready as well, as the possibility of rain thrown into the mix will affect road treatments.

“We do a lot of pretreatment with both liquid deicer and salt. The liquid deicer helps keep the salt on the roads,” explained Public Engagement and Communications Director Pippi Mayfield. “The one thing that we do differently when there is rain forecasted, is we don’t pretreat because otherwise it’ll be washed off before anything is freezing anyway.”

As the type of precipitation changes this weekend, so will their approach.

“Once there’s ice on the road or an ice in the process of the freezing rain coming down, then we would go out and use the liquid, the ice there in the salt to treat the road,” said Mayfield. “And obviously if there is anything building up on the road, we would have our blades down to scrape off any, you know, slush and that sort of thing too.”

As roads get slick, extra caution is needed.

“Just slow down and drive speeds for the weather, not for the posted speed limit,” Mayfield emphasized. “We all have to be more careful. A lot of times, you have people hit a patch of ice that you don’t see coming and there’s accidents, cars can flip easily with that sort of thing. It’s just very dangerous.”

There is also extra preparation you can do in case of a power outage.

“We encourage folks to have a lights-out kit ready yet available in your home,” said Rutledge. “Make sure you have working flashlight lights and your mobile devices charged. Grab extra blankets, clothing to keep warm. And also we ask that you download our outage app where you can monitor real time outages response times and you can also report an outage.”

With the possibility of power outages and difficult travel conditions, being more cautious and patient than usual is important.

“Our drivers have been out there just working endlessly,” said Mayfield. “We appreciate how hard they’ve been working. We appreciate everybody giving us some room and just knowing that we’re out there. Even if you don’t see it right in front of you happening, we’re probably right behind you taking care of the roads.”

The latest road conditions can be found here.