Snow and ice removal

Hennepin County plow drivers maintain more than 2,200 lane miles of county roads. Keeping Hennepin County roads safe during the winter is our priority.

Plow drivers help people continue getting where they need to go. This is a big job in the county. Hennepin has a quarter of Minnesota’s population – more than 1.2 million residents. Half of all jobs in the Twin Cities metro region are located in Hennepin County. And, more than 4,200 people who live in other places travel into the county to work each day.

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Be safe

Be cautious when driving in winter weather:

  • Plan ahead for snow days – give yourself extra time
  • Know the road – when weather is good, learn where the road curves, how many turn lanes there are and other qualities of the road
  • Be patient – slow down and give plows room to work
  • Never use cruise control or get distracted in your driving – keep your eyes on the road, as well as hands and feet ready to respond

Remember, just because a road is plowed, it doesn’t mean it’s okay to speed up. The de-icing materials crews are spreading as they plow need time to do their work.

The clean up process

Plowing and deicing

There are 66 plow routes, coming out of five stations across the county. The stations are Medina, Bloomington, Minnetonka, Orono and Osseo.

  • The first shift may start as early as 2 a.m. This allows for crews to plow before traffic gets heavy. They may also apply anti-icing chemicals if conditions allow.
  • The goal is to make all travel lanes passable.
  • Routes take approximately five hours to complete a route. But crews don't just stop after they have completed their route.

Keep in mind that traffic volume affects snow plowing operations.

  • When traffic congestion exists, plowing takes longer.
  • When traffic volume is high, melting/removal may take longer.

Post storm clean up

Post storm clean up begins on the first regularly scheduled shift following the completion of emergency snow and ice control operations.

Clean up includes:

  • Deicing and removing compacted snow and ice from the pavement
  • "Winging” on roadsides to create additional space for snow storage
  • Removing snow from bridge sidewalks and approaches, as well as from obstacles (e.g. guardrails and bollards)

Driver training

Hennepin County trains its new drivers with intensive training at Minnesota Highway Safety & Research Center for the Snow Plow Operators/Wing and Plow/Road Maintenance and does refresher training with all staff. Crews also do dry-runs in the fall to check for potential obstacles and issues prior to snow and ice removal.

Materials used

Deicing

Hennepin County most commonly uses rock salt (NaCl) for deicing. This is effective down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Other materials, including salt mixed with sand, may be used depending on weather conditions.

Pre-wetting

Pre-wetting, or adding liquids to deicers right before applying to the road surface, is an increasing common activity for the county’s snow and ice removal crews. A slushy, wet material gets applied to the road. This results in faster and more effective ice melting, because it keeps the materials on the road instead of "bounce and scattering."

Anti-icing

Anti-icing is the practice of pre-treating roads and bridge decks prior to any winter snow, ice or frost event. The purpose is to prevent the initial bond of snow and ice to the surface. By preventing the initial bond, less deicing material is required. The anti-icing process typically occurs one to three days prior to projected storm events for selected roads and routinely for bridges. Hennepin County began its program in 2006.

Common mixtures used include potassium acetate (KA) and salt brine (NaCl and water).

Roadway responsibilities

Hennepin County clears snow and ice from county roads. These roads can be identified by blue pentagram signs, like the one show below, along the roadway.

County Road 19 sign

Some county roads have roadway names (e.g. France Avenue, Pinto Drive, Bushaway Road) for some part or all of the county road.

Cities are responsible for removing snow and ice from other roads in their community (although the county may help with post-storm clean up). For trails, cities or local park districts are responsible in most cases. Minnesota Department of Transportation removes snow and ice from state highways and interstates.

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