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Update: Names released in snowplow crash

A vehicle crashed into a snow plow on Interstate 94 earlier today, Friday, March 1. (Contributed)

Heavy snow Friday led to several crashes in the Douglas County area, especially on Interstate 94.

One of the crashes occurred near mile marker 89 in Brandon Township at about 10 a.m.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, a Subaru Crosstrek was attempting to pass a big rig and a plow truck was traveling the same direction, plowing the left, which caused whiteout conditions. The Crosstrek hit the plow causing severe damage to the vehicle. The driver, Alan Pranke, 65, of Jamestown, North Dakota, and his passenger, Pamela Pranke, 63, also of Jamestown, suffered non-life threatening injuries and were transported to Alomere Health in Alexandria. They were both wearing seat belts.

The snowplow driver, Christopher Ranweiler, 33, of Alexandria was not injured.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation advised motorists to slow down and use caution while driving in West Central Minnesota.

In a press release sent out shortly before 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 1, MnDOT indicated that current road conditions throughout the region were varying from partially to completely covered with snow. Even if roads look dry, MnDOT representatives said snow clouds formed by snow plows and other heavy vehicles can create whiteout conditions.

“We’ve had four snowplows hit in West Central Minnesota so far this winter and 73 statewide,” said Jeff Perkins, operations manager for MnDOT District 4, which includes Douglas County. “The main causes of these crashes are motorists driving too fast for conditions, driving too close to the plow and distracted driving. For everyone’s safety, motorists need to be patient and stay back from the plow.”

Snowplows typically travel much slower than the posted speeds, slowing down to approximately 30-40 mph even on the interstate, according to Perkins. Plow operators have a restricted view from the plow cab, so they must rely on mirrors to see the rear and side of the truck. Their vision is also hampered by the snow clouds they create while they plow, he added.

“The safest place to be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates,” Perkins said. “When motorists encounter a snow cloud, it’s important to slow down and increase following distance to at least 10 car lengths.”

Minnesota law requires motorists to turn on their headlights when it’s snowing or at any other time when weather conditions impair visibility.

Other recommendations for safe driving around snow plows include:

  • Stay alert for snowplows, which turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.
  • Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow. Don’t drive into a snow cloud.
  • Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.
  • Turn off the cruise control.
  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
  • Don’t drive distracted.

Motorists should check road conditions at www.511mn.org.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242