Had a bit of a blizzard here the last few days, normally have a couple a year. The whole shebang started with an appetizer of a couple inches of snow on friday. That iced up the roads for a good 24 hours, with a couple hours reprieve of “good winter driving conditions” midday saturday before the main course was served. That main course was steady snow saturday night that didn’t really quit ’til sunday afternoon, providing a foot of snow, heavy on the bottom and lighter towards the top as the temps dropped. Desert was winds in the 50 MPH range , dropping visibility to near zero from around noon sunday through the small hours of monday morning. By then the temps were below freezing, a 50 degree drop since Thursday’s ‘hack ride.

I live a hundred yards away from Minnesota 23, a major cross state diagonal that hosts over a thousand trucks a day. Alongside runs the Marshall Sub of the BNSF railroad, a busy single track main line. Both carry mostly agricultural products, with the railroad also carrying coal and crude oil from the Bakken. Friday’s snow slowed responsible drivers to 40-50 MPH, but nobody got stuck except a few who ignored the laws of physics and did a bit of unplanned off road driving. With the return of snow on saturday evening, speeds slowed again and traffic dropped to zero by sunday morning. By mid afternoon South Dakota and Minnesota closed all roads in the blizzard’s path, though by then for all practical purposes every highway was blocked by drifts and stuck vehicles anyway. For nearly a day, until monday morning when the roads were reopened by plows and DOT decree, nothing moved on the highways of southwest Minnesota and northeast South Dakota. Trucks sat in Sioux Falls and Sissetton and the loading docks of packing plants. After the plows had laboriously pushed aside the snow, the bottom layer remained, snow melted against the warm pavement then refrozen by the cold winds. ¬†Took all of monday and half of tuesday and ¬†whole lot of salt and pressure from the DOT truck’s underframe plows to see pavement again. So the trucks were down to train speed (40-50 MPH) on day one of the storm, slowed and stopped for the second, and down to 30 MPH on glare ice for the third and much of the fourth day of the storm. The truck’s box score: 3 days slow, 1 day dead in the snow.

And the railroad? Trains paraded by every couple of hours just like usual through the whole blizzard. Even after the roads reopened, on sunday and monday trains frequently passed trucks on parallel MN23. While semitrailer loads of perishable foods sat, carloads of coal and grain and tank cars full of crude oil kept right on rollin’. If I were a big food processor in southwest Minnesota, I’d be lookin’ into puttin’ in a railroad siding to my plant…

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