Set your mind in winter-driving mode
For some drivers in the region, this morning was a crash course in Winter Driving 101.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported several accidents this morning, mostly on Interstate 35 to the west as well as a few on U.S. 52. Roads west of Dodge County and to the north were reported to be fully covered with snow, while roads in the rest of the region were partially covered. A Goodhue County dispatcher said there were a lot of vehicles in the ditch this morning. "People forgot how to drive," he said. "The first snow is always like this."
Reports from other counties were that driving wasn't as bad, though things could get worse tonight into Wednesday.
The storm that came in overnight is one of the first of the season, though there were some snow problems 10 days ago, said Troy Christianson, State Patrol public information officer for southern Minnesota. When the first snow hit Nov. 20, the 11-county region had 52 property-damage crashes, 50 vehicles in the ditch and five personal injury accidents. Normally, there are only a few each day in the region, he said.
By January, a similar storm would bring more crashes than normal but not that many, he said.
The problem "is typically the same thing," he said. "The biggest thing is you need more time."
People's internal clocks for how long a drive will take often still are set on summer, and they forget it just takes longer, Christianson said. "In winter time, the biggest factor we see is unsafe speed," he said. "The roads don't look bad, but they are bad."
Other factors are tires without enough tread, poor windshield wipers and not scraping all the windows. Oh, yes, don't use cruise control on roads that aren't cleared, he said.
The wintry mix of snow, rain and sleet began falling overnight and is expected to continue into late Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wis. Driving could be even worse later today as the mix with the highest amounts of snow moving farther west.
Colder air will come in Tuesday, changing rain to snow.
The service's long-term prediction is there's an even chance this region will get normal amounts of snow, which is about 52 inches for the entire season.
Temperatures, however, should follow the trend of the past several months with a good chance for above-normal readings for the winter.
The service at La Crosse said this fall will probably be the third-warmest yet recorded with an average temperature of 52.1 degrees.
The forecast for the Rochester area from the National Weather Service at La Crosse, Wis.:
• Chance of precipitation is 90 percent today with about an inch of snow today.
• Tonight, rain possibly mixed with snow before 5 a.m. then freezing rain mixed with snow. Low around 31. New snow, 1-3 inches.
• Tuesday, snow and freezing rain before 2 p.m. then rain and snow after that; 80 percent chance of snow. New snow, less than an inch.
• Tuesday night, snow chances lessen, less than an inch possible.
• A 30 percent chance of snow before 7 a.m. then partly sunny, high near 35.
• Thursday through Sunday, mostly sunny, highs in upper 30s.