It was certainly an “adventure” driving earlier today from Morris to St. Paul for the Christmas holidays. It was the day after our first winter-storm-blizzard of the 2020-2021 Winter Season. I was checking the road conditions from Morris to the Twin Cities and was expecting “good” conditions from Morris to Monticello. However, I saw the map that there will be some “rough” conditions from Monticello to the Twin Cities based on the 511mn.org site. I kept thinking to myself that the road conditions will be improved by the time I drive through this area after this sunny day.
When I left Morris, the amount of snow in the ground was about an inch or so. It depends on the area as we had snow drifts created from the 60 mph winds (blizzard). We didn’t even have work despite the smaller amounts of snowfall, but the “blizzard ” wind conditions made it “crazy” to drive in. Fortunately, it was a “nicer” day despite the below zero weather (high was only 0 F). I chose to drive when there was daylight, which I was aiming to get home by sunset. It took a little longer than I wanted to depart from Morris as it was around a little after 2ish. There was some patchy snow conditions in various parts along Minnesota State Highway 28, which I learned from the past (had a small car accident last month while driving to work ; pt-job during the weekend) to “eye” far ahead and be ready to slow down to avoid slipping and driving off the road like my past accident (see map) . I finally made it to Sauk Centre to go much “faster” on the interstate (I-94) after some uneventful driving (went through Starbuck without the State Patrol driving the opposite way nor the local police squad car pulling me over)…thank God!
I got to Sauk Centre around a little after 3ish and the sun was still out. Driving on I-94 was pretty smooth sailing most of the way that I can remember..driving the speed limit and just a little over (no more than 5). I even passed by a State Patrol by the St. Cloud (north exit) as he/she was making sure all of us were driving “safely”. It wasn’t until I reached Monticello , which I remembered looking at the “road conditions” that the challenge will start. Part of some lanes were still covered, which I drove the other at times. I kept looking ahead to determine which lane to go on as there were cars behind me and wanted to keep that safe distance.
It was worse around Elk River and the “fun” started. While driving, I was listening to various radio stations that would play “Christmas” music. I started singing my own “parody” (“White Christmas”..”I’m wishing we didn’t have a white Christmas…”). The timing of this snow might be great for others, but “hectic” for us drivers. Anyways, I would pass by so many cars that ended up on the ditch. I was tempted to help one particular vehicle that crashed into a pile of snow in the concrete median. Thank God there was snow there or it could’ve been worse. I wanted to stop and see if I could help them, but notice I had a low tank. I wanted to fill my tank earlier , but I was in a rush to beat the sunset and wanted to take advantage of the “sun ” while it was up (Winter Solstice was earlier this week, so we are slowly going to gain some daylight…woot woot!)
There was one semi truck that was stalled on the right side of the highway going east and many cars were pulling to the exit ramp beforehand in Maple Grove. However, as I slowly drove pass it from the inner lane , I notice it was probably a running out of gas issue or some maintenance issue. Thank God it wasn’t serious..no other vehicles involved based on my observation. There was some type of pick-up truck with it’s emergency lights flashing, so probably some road side service waiting for a tow. As I write this, I do remember passing a huge “semi-truck ” tow vehicle during my drive , which was probably heading to this situation.
Minnesota Weather: Following Winter Storm, Bitter Wind Chills For Christmas Eve By Mike AugustyniakDecember 24, 2020 at 12:00 pm minnesota.cbslocal.com
” …According to meteorologist Mike Augustyniak, Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport received 8.8 inches of snow, but totals varied widely around the metro area. Maple Grove saw 9 inches, while Shoreview and Forest Lake picked up only 5 to 6 inches. Downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul received about 6 inches, while Woodbury picked up 6 inches. Other areas, like Cambridge and Anoka, saw about 9 inches.
You gotta remember the temperatures were single digits, which it’s always important to have a full tank of gas to keep your vehicle running in case you get stalled or land in a ditch to keep warm while waiting for help. I fortunately had my emergency supplies (e.g. sleeping bag, food, water, etc..); however, low gas tank! I was taking a gamble driving with a low tank, but again I wanted to beat the sunset and take advantage of the day light. However, it really started to get dark by 5ish and was still outside of the Twin Cities.
After passing the stalled semi-truck, I was heading to Highway 694 to the Twin Cities… yeah! However, this stretch to St. Paul was still a challenge. I notice so many vehicles! It was probably “late Christmas” shoppers trying to get their “last minute” gifts or groceries before stores close early or close Christmas day. The roads were still “bad” as I was driving 35mph most of the time along the stretch to St. Paul. I didn’t see many stalled vehicles, but just heavy traffic. It was rush hour too! I remember seeing some accidents on the other side of the highway going west on 694. I try to remember to pray (silently or audibly) all the time I hear or see emergency vehicles rushing with their sirens and lights flashing. I saw this ambulance going pretty fast the opposite direction.
I finally would reached St. Paul around 5:45ish; however, still rush hour traffic. I remember passing this vehicle going slow on the “fast lane” and a car behind it was honking. I feel for that person as I drove very slow after my “car accident” last month when I drove off the state highway. I was nervous and worried I’ll do it again, so cars would pass me as I would turn on my flashers to give them ahead notice I’ll be slowing down every time I would see an up-coming snow patch…just drove more cautiously ever since, which we all should! However, drive to the “slower lane” if possible to let “dare devil” fast drivers take their chances on these slippery roads!
When I reached my destination, I wanted to get some groceries and gas. I went to Sunray shopping center to find out the Cub Foods grocery store closed early 😦 I then went to get gas on my way back home and saw I had about 2-3 or less gallons of gas..close to empty! Thanking God I was able to get home with enough gas. After filling gas, I decided to checkout Target after googling on my phone that it was still open…yeah! I was hoping to get some groceries even though my parents didn’t need any after texting and calling them while waiting for my tank to be filled with gas at the nearby gas station.
As I drove towards Target (1/2 mile or so from Sunray) , the roads were still bad! I was going up a hill towards White Bear Avenue from Old Hudson Road past the new Capital View Apartments. Besides me there was a van stuck and couldn’t go up the hill. Fortunately, there were some “good Samaritans” helping and would end up helping me later as I was trying to turn left when the light turned green. I had no luck going up the icy hill, so I ended up turning right (opposite direction to Target) with the help of the “good Samaritans”. I opened my driver side window to yell thank you and wave my hand as I drove off to show my appreciation, While driving the opposite direction of my destination on White Bear, I was looking for a time to turn back. I drove to my old church (St. Pascals) and turned around the side road. However, as I was turning, I ended up getting stuck. I would drive back and forth (tires burning ), which I finally got out safely and drove back to White Bear going to my destination. As I was driving towards Target, I realized so many cars going the same direction. It was packed! I even saw the Target lot parking lot packed with shoppers! I decided to not even go there and just head home. However, the road (going down hill) going to Suburban Avenue from White Bear pass the interstate 94 bridge was icy!! I saw my vehicle slowly going to the right lane nearly colliding with the vehicle right side of me. I also notice vehicles ahead of me sliding down the hill , so I kept my distance to avoid a head on collision. Fortunately, I was able to get some traction and got back to the left lane to turn to Suburban. After that ordeal, I just felt I needed to “do something” about that icy stretch. I pulled over to the BP gas station on that corner and decided to get some sand or gravel. I saw an open bag of sand an gravel outside of the gas station. I went inside and asked if I could buy that bag and put some on the icy hill. However, the attendant told me it’s only for the store. She suggested me using the salt. I decided to buy a bag (blue) of salt and I went to icy hill and spread this bag after seeing so many other cars after me sliding ..of course I did this safely as I waited for that opportune time (e.g no cars and would put my hand up to tell them to stop and have me put some salt in front and back of their tires.
After using the whole bag, I decided to buy 3 more! I took another bag out and waited to see any more opportunities. I would spray as much salt again on the icy road . One car had trouble going up the hill (towards the bridge), so sprayed some in front and back of the tires. The passenger in the back asked me to help push their vehicle and put salt on the back tires area. I then started pushing on the icy road and was having trouble. Fortunately, the car behind her had a willing passenger (teenager) to get out and help me push this vehicle up the hill. This teenager said..”wow, it’s icy” as he was slipping ” but we both manged to push this car! I thanked him and we went are separate ways.
“Pic taken December 23rd 2010”
It was getting too cold for me as my hands were getting cold. I decided to “retire” and head home. I took the 2 extra bags as part of my driving emergency kit. I also used one of the bags to add some extra weight on the back of my car and hoping this will help me later on. As I drove off from the gas station on Suburban Avenue, I notice many cars struggling up the hill. There was one vehicle that was stuck blocking my entry way towards Burns Avenue. I ended up getting stuck as I lost my momentum going up the hill. I found my car turning left and doing a 180 degree turn. Fortunately the car behind me gave me some distance, so I can drive off and went back to Suburban Avenue. Since I grew up in this neighborhood of East St. Paul, I knew the other detours to get home…
I took the detour and finally got home. The driveway wasn’t shoveled really well on my parent’s home. I decided to shovel it before I parked my car and finally got home a little after 7ish..halleluah!
As I write this (10:24pm -yesterday now as it’s 9:05am Christmas Day) , I was curious if the road conditions between Monticello and the Twin Cities improved..
Looks like it hasn’t. Stay safe out there as we are expecting new storm system later next week.
Christmas Day (Friday, December 25th 2020) Update:
Travel advisories lifted, but road conditions remain challenging Author: Dana Thiede
Published: 10:23 AM CST December 24, 2020
Updated: 4:24 PM CST December 24, 2020 kare11.com
“.,..Grabow also included his list of personal must-dos. Among them:
Use common sense – if public safety officials say not to travel, don’t
Keep cruise control off – powertrain engaging when wheels are on ice (say on bridge surface) can send you into a spin
Allow more following distance – tires don’t stop as quickly on slippery surfaces
Wear a seatbelt – goes without saying
Fuel up when you reach half a tank – can keep vehicle running and warm in case of emergency
Keep a phone charger in your vehicle..”
I hope this will encourage you to “pay it forward” and help those who might need it this “holiday” season and “every” season. God bless and stay safe!
Any other personal stories, tips, suggestions, etc…