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‘Seeing is believing’: Snowplow cams show road conditions in real time

A screen capture from www.511mn.org shows images taken Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, with a snowplow-mounted camera in Goodhue County.

Minnesota drivers have a new tool for checking winter road conditions thanks to cameras installed on some of the transportation department’s 838 snowplows. The cameras periodically take still photos of the road and upload them to www.511mn.org.

“The plow cams are another way for travelers to make good decisions about their travel plans during the snow and ice season,” said Kelly Braunig, 511 program manager, in a news release. “If they go on the 511 site and see that travel is not advised, they can actually see an image of the road the cameras take as the plow is traveling. Seeing is believing.”

To access the plow cams, go to www.511mn.org and click “Plow Cameras” on the left menu. A window will open to show photos and a map where the plow is. Underneath the current photo and map is a “film strip” showing images every five minutes. The camera will activate when the plow is going at least 10 miles per hour or based on other filtering criteria.

Photos have captions with the date, time and location of the plow. Images will be displayed for two hours. If a new image is not taken for 15 minutes — such as when a snowplow has stopped to refuel — the snowplow icon will be removed from the map until the plow is active again.

The snowplow cameras add to the Road Weather Information System’s 97 fixed cameras around the state.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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