Highway Department readies for Winters' blast

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -The weather is going to be miserable for the next several days.

If we get snow, it could lead to hazardous driving conditions.

So, what is the State Highway Department doing to get ready?

Well considering they have over 1700 miles to cover out of 8 facilities in Region 8 . Actually according to District Engineer Walter Mcmillan, Tuesday was the go day.

"This morning we started putting our plows back on the trucks. Putting our spreaders back on the trucks."

But Tuesday was not the first time these rigs had seen each other this season.

McMillan, "We started two or three weeks ago we put all our equipment on our trucks making sure all the hydraulics worked and that type thing. We started back in September and October stockpiling salt and our chemicals that we use."

I asked Walter if they got an ops order from the state office regarding when to get ready. He said "no."

"Routinely we keep an eye on the weather over the Internet. Watching the ten day forecast and the 5 day forecast."

District 10 is headquartered in Paragould but has 7 county maintenance locations.

At the Craighead County Maintenance office, James Morgan took a few minutes out to show me round the place and the preps they were making including loading sand getting the wheels greased.

You can load trucks full of sand all day.

But if the spreaders aren't lubed and the belts moving smoothly nothing is going to hit the roads when you need it.

I asked Morgan who is a 30 year veteran, With so many miles of road to cover how do you split up the crews and equipment?

"Half of us work during the day the other half runs all night long.And we keep it going until we feel it's safe for the motoring public to travel the highways again."

McMillan, "We usually have 3 or 4 trucks, snowplows per unit and they will work 24 hours a day."

Some states spray a chemical on their highways. In Arkansas the chemical is sprayed on the sand and salt mix as it leaves the truck.

McMillan, "We spray it with magnesium chloride which wets it to stick to the roads better than just dry chemicals."

Even though the driving conditions may be harsh so far it doesn't appear that there will be any ice, which according to McMillan, is a good thing and easier for his crews to handle.

"You can blade the snow off more than you can the ice. "

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