With a potential of 10 inches of snow and dangerously cold temperatures expected this weekend, it's probably best to stay at home.
That's the message officials had for Minnesotans at a news conference Friday morning, urging people to not drive over the next few days unless it's "absolutely necessary." The heaviest snow is expected Friday evening, tapering off Saturday morning.
Why the roads will be bad
"The next few days are going to be pretty challenging for us across the state of Minnesota, so we're advising everyone to stay home, if at all possible postpone any trips you may have planned," Lt. Robert Zak of the State Patrol, said at the news conference.
One of the big issues with Friday's winter storm is that snow will be "falling quite rapidly" at times, which can lead to compacted snow on the roads that's hard to clear, Kevin Gutknecht of the Minnesota Department of Transportation said. As vehicles drive on the road, they compact it before plows can get there to clear it. Then the snow freezes.
And on Saturday afternoon, when temperatures drop and the wind chill is minus 35 to minus 45 degrees, it will again affect the compacted snow on the road. Salt – the ingredient MnDOT typically uses to loosen compacted snow so plows can remove it – loses its effectiveness when temperatures get really low, Gutknecht explained.
Because of this – and the potential for blowing snow early Saturday – driving conditions could be tricky for much of the weekend. You can check current road conditions on MnDOT's website, here.
If you plan to leave the house
If you do have to go out, don't drive like an idiot: wipe all the snow off your car; wear your seat belt; drive the speed road conditions allow – that's usually under the posted speed limit; leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you; put your cellphone down; and give snow plows plenty of room. (Read more here.)
Also, make sure you're prepared. Zak says you should have at least a half tank of gas in your vehicle at all times, you should dress warm and have proper clothing with you, and also have an emergency roadside kit in your car in case you get stranded.
And if you do get stranded or your car breaks down, stay in your vehicle. It's safer there. Plus leaving your car when it's this cold out can be "extremely dangerous," Zak said. The State Patrol will come find you in your vehicle – there's no need to go searching for help, he added.
In the past three years, there have been 55,000 crashes when roads are snowy or icy, which resulted in 149 traffic deaths and 15,505 injuries, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety says.
Officials also discussed heat and fire safety when temperatures get this cold, and how to help people who may not have a warm place to stay. For more information on that, watch the video below. And for additional tips on how to stay safe this weekend – and throughout winter – click here and here.