PIKEVILLE – With winter weather arriving late this season D-12 Snowfighters are ready with plenty of rock salt, liquid calcium chloride
Highway District 12 Snowfighters have been ready for at least four months says Chief District Engineer Mary Westfall-Holbrook. “Snow and ice season is a little late getting started this year. It’s unusual to get to January before we have to salt the roads.”
Flurries on Monday morning, January 4, meant that all ten maintenance crews in D-12’s seven counties were monitoring state routes and salting in some places, especially on the mountains.
“This was our first measurable snowfall for Winter 2015-2015,” Westfall-Holbrook said. “Fortunately, we didn’t have enough to put down salt in most places, much less plow. But we’ll get our share of winter, and we want people to know we are ready for it.”
District 12 covers all state-maintained roads in Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Lawrence, Letcher, Martin, and Pike counties, nearly 2000 road miles, more than double that in lane miles. The crews use a combination of rock salt and liquid calcium chloride to treat snow and ice-covered roads, depending on the ground temperature. When ice is anticipated in advance, salt brine is applied to pavement, which helps prevent the ice from sticking to the roadway.
District 12 has nearly 25,000 tons of rock salt on hand in the maintenance facilities’ salt domes. The district also has almost 77,000 gallons of liquid calcium chloride stored at the maintenance facilities, as well as about 1400 bags of calcium pellets, which are used in spots that cannot be reached by traditional plowing. The district makes its own salt brine at Shelby Maintenance, and has over 60,000 gallons on hand, ready to use.
State-maintained roads are plowed according to a priority system. Road are classified as “A,” “B,” or “C” routes based on a number of variables, such as how many vehicles travel the road each day, whether the road is a primary access road to a medical facility, whether the road is a main road used by emergency responders, and other relevant information. If you know the route number you live on, you can find out how it is classified by going to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s website at this link: http://transportation.ky.gov/Maintenance/Pages/Snow-and-Ice-Priority-Maps.aspx . The maps are listed in alphabetical order by county.
“A” routes are cleared first, then “B” routes and then “C” routes. During a routine snowfall, each classification of roads takes about two hours to clear. However, when we have flash freezing, a lot of black ice build up overnight, or an unusually heavy amount of snowfall in a short period of time, clearing the roads could take much longer. Keep in mind that a snowplow operator cannot get down to black pavement when snow is still falling. “We ask you to give our operators time and space to work,” Westfall-Holbrook said. “And for sure do not try to pass a snow plow. That is an extremely dangerous, reckless thing to do. These machines can be carrying up to 10 thousand pounds of rock salt. You don’t want to crowd a snow plow and cause it to drop off the shoulder into a ditchline and turn over on your car.” In fact, she pointed out, the safest place you can be is about 100 feet behind a plow, driving on freshly plowed roadway.
“We are ready,” Westfall-Holbrook said, “and we want people who drive on these roadways to be ready, too. Here is a list of tips that you should consider when preparing for winter weather driving. Please take these seriously and make sure you and your vehicle are safe when the flurries turn to a full blown snowstorm.”
She also pointed out that it is a good idea to go over these things with any new drivers in your family. “Young people especially need to think about winter weather driving if they got their driver’s license this past spring or summer and have not driven on snow or ice. You can avoid a lot of heartache and worry if you go over these safety tips with them before they take off when the weather turns bad.”
1. Check your tire pressure. Many wrecks are caused by low tire pressure, which affects your traction on the highway. In fact, it’s a good idea to have your alignment checked, too.
2. Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you go out in bad weather. You never know when you might be stuck in a line of traffic and have to use up your gas just staying warm until the traffic gets going again.
3. Clean your headlights and tail lights so that you have maximum visibility and so that other drivers can see you clearly.
4. Drive with your lights on during bad weather. You do not have to use your bright lights; in fact, it’s better in foggy conditions to dim your lights, but when you have not lights on, the people coming toward you may not be able to see you until it’s too late to avoid a crash.
5. If you have your windshield wipers on, make sure your lights are on as well. In fact, make sure you have good wipers. If they are leaving streaks or not working properly, replace them.
6. Always use your turn signal to let drivers behind you – as well as people trying to pull onto the highway – know that you are going to be slowing down and turning off the road.
7. Make sure your windshield wiper fluid is the type that does not freeze.
8. Reduce your speed when driving in bad weather. It can be more difficult to stop or maneuver around objects in the road when weather conditions are less than ideal.
9. Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you. Tailgating is the cause of many wintertime crashes. In bad weather, it can take longer for a vehicle to stop after the brakes are applied.
10. Be aware of black ice. It gets its name from the fact that it is nearly invisible, thin, and hard to spot. Black ice tends to form in areas that have had snow or ice melt and then refreeze overnight when temperatures drop. Be extra cautious on turns and exit and entrance ramps.
11. Steer into a skid. Remain calm, do not panic, and do not slam on the brakes. Take your foot off the accelerator and allow the vehicle to slow down naturally as you turn the steering wheel in the direction the car is skidding. This should help right the car and get you back on track without flipping or wrecking.
12. Fix an emergency kit for your vehicle: blankets, flashlight, snacks, bottled water, change of clothes, first aid supplies, wet wipes, whatever you think you might need until help comes if you are stranded.