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ODOT gets ready for winter snow work

By the time this weekend hits – with highs expected in the 60s – area residents might forget about the threat of snow.

Friday, November 05, 1999

By the time this weekend hits – with highs expected in the 60s – area residents might forget about the threat of snow.

But Ohio Department of Transportation officials won’t.

ODOT District 9 employees began inspecting their winter fleet this week, including 13 dump trucks, two loaders, two backhoes and one grader in Lawrence County, said Holly Snedecor-Gray, District 9 public information officer.

"The purpose of this inspection is to make sure the equipment is ready for the winter season," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. "If we didn’t do this, the trucks could not be working properly and we could have a snowstorm and there would be a break down."

As well as checking their equipment for faulty hoses and burned-out bulbs, ODOT officials also check to make sure they have enough salt and grit to last them through the snow and ice season, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

As of Oct. 28, District 9 had nearly 22,000 tons of salt and 2,800 tons of grits stored in its eight-county area. About 3,934 tons of that salt and 513 tons of the grit are located in Lawrence County, she added.

"We don’t get into the projection game about how bad the winter will be," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. "We prepare like there will be a hard winter every year because you just never know. No one can predict the future. And it never hurts to be prepared."

With the snow and ice removal equipment and materials ready for winter, next week District 9 officials will begin preparing the snow plow drivers for the upcoming winter season.

ODOT will conduct a refresher course for all snow plow drivers to review proper snow and ice removal techniques and advances in snow removal.

And when the first snow hits, the employees will be prepared to hit the roads, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

"Normally, if a storm is forecast, our employees will be on the roadways as soon as the snow starts to fall," she said. "If a really bad storm is predicted, the employees will be here ready to go. We always try to get a jump on it so we will be ready to go."

The winter inspection occurs annually, and allows transportation department employees to have no worries of being stranded roadside while they work to prevent accidents, said Vaughn Wilson, district highway management administrator.

"Essentially we’re looking to see that the trucks are mechanically and physically able to be ready for the snow and ice," Wilson said. "There’s a lot of hydraulic features to the trucks, which make them different from standard trucks. That means there are more things that could go wrong."

The trucks haven’t sat idly by this summer, however. They continue to be used yearround for paving and construction projects.

"The inspection ensures that everything is in working order before the first snow hits," Wilson said. "Some parts have not been used all summer, like the plow. After the inspection, we know we are good to go when the first snow hits."

The Ohio Department of Transportation keeps snow and ice off all state and federal roadways, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. The department does not clear city streets, county roads or township roads unless that area requests assistance, she added.

It’s important to keep a few driver safety tips in mind, however, if crews are not able to get to an icy roadway before it is traveled upon, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

These tips include:

– Maintaining a safe following distance behind all vehicles and especially behind snow plows. If a motorist follows a plow too closely, they run the risk of having their windshield shattered by a stray chunk of salt or ice.

– Reducing speed during snowy and icy conditions and being especially cautious on hills, curves and at intersections.

– Driving with extreme caution on bridges and overpasses, because these structures tend to freeze more quickly than roadways.

– Watching for black ice, which is the thin, transparent layer of ice on the roadway, because it is extremely slippery.

– Leaving early for a destination and listening to a local radio station for road condition updates.

– Being prepared for winter driving by cleaning all snow and ice from mirrors, windows and lights before leaving home. It’s also important to check fuel and fluid levels and equip a vehicle with emergency supplies such as flares, blankets, chains, a shovel, a flashlight, jumper cables, sand, gloves, a hat and boots.