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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Your role

We do our part to clear the roads, but we need you to do your part, too.

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.

Our clean up process

Before winter weather season, Hennepin County prepares its drivers. New drivers attend intensive training and all staff gets refresher training. Crews also do dry-runs in the fall to check for potential obstacles and issues. 

Early morning plowing and deicing

The goal is to make all travel lanes passable before the morning commute.

  • 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.
  • Routes take approximately five hours to complete a route. But that doesn't mean that you'll only see plows out until 7 a.m. or never see them off their routes. For example, they may pull off the road when traffic is too heavy for them to effectively plow and apply materials. Don't worry. They will be out there soon again. 

Keep in mind that traffic volume affects snow plowing operations. When traffic volume is high and congestion exists, it can take longer for the materials to work and for plows to get to where they need to get.

Post storm clean up

Depending on how much snow falls, crews may need to do 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:

  • Additional deicing and removing compacted snow and ice from the pavement
  • Using wings on trucks to create additional space for snow storage on roadsides 
  • Removing snow from bridge sidewalks and approaches, as well as from obstacles (e.g. guardrails and bollards)

Options for managing snow and ice

Hennepin County has been steadily decreasing the amount of salt it uses during snow and ice removal. This is the result of improvements in technology, new equipment acquired and changes in techniques. We follow a number of a best manage practices for minimizing effects to the environment while maintaining safe road conditions for the travelling public.

To effectively restore or maintain road surfaces, crews may use any or all of the three techniques listed below.

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.

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

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."

Deicing

Deicing is the process used in the midst of active snowfall or immediately after a snow fall. 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.

Who plows what roads

Removing snow and ice from county roads

Hennepin County clears snow and ice from county roads. You may not always know what is a county road. Some county roads have roadway names (e.g. France Avenue, Pinto Drive, Bushaway Road). Most county roads can be identified by blue pentagram signs, like the one show below, along the roadway.

County Road 19 sign

You can also view this simplified online map of county roads

Other agencies involved in snow removal

Minnesota Department of Transportation removes snow and ice from state highways and interstates.

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 and sidewalks, cities or local park districts are responsible in most cases. 

Here are some related resources: 

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