Road departments prepare for wintry blast of ice and snow

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO/PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – Officials with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department told Region 8 News Thursday it was ready for the first major winter storm of the decade. According to District 10 Engineer Walter McMillan, eight man crews in each county are on standby Thursday night into Friday morning to clear highways of possible ice and snow.

"We started in Tuesday checking our equipment, putting the snow plow spreaders back in and making sure all that works," said McMillan.

According to McMillan, employees will monitor the weather overnight to determine when all other employees should come in to start work.

"When a storm like this occurs and we know there's going to be some night work, we split our crews in two," said McMillan.

"We've been filling our spreaders, chemical spreaders with a sand salt chloride mixture. We're changing blades for the grader blades for the plow," said Steve Leath, Area Maintenance Supervisor for the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. "We'll be working 24 hours a day as long as the storm lasts."

Leath and McMillan said they will be able to use snow plows and a mixture of salt and sand to melt ice accumulating on the roads. McMillan said the mixture can't be used at temperatures below 20 degrees.

"Snow you can plow, push it off the road and when it's ice, it sticks and the thicker the ice is the harder it is on the equipment and harder to get off," said McMillan. "Snow, you can push off and ice you can't and you pretty much have to rely on chemicals with ice."

McMillan said he expects the snow to last all day Friday.

"When the daylight comes and the pavement warms up, you can accomplish much more in getting it knocked off the road," said McMillan.

Leath said bridges, hills and curves are the most dangerous roads to travel during wintry weather events.

"We try to keep the roads as clear as we can and I know there's going to be quite a bit of snow this time so it's going to be dangerous despite our best efforts," said Leath. "The forecast shows a pretty big storm. Hopefully it won't last several days, but if the sun comes out, that's usually the best way to get it off the roads."

"Pre-treating it does pretty well in certain situations. In this situation I hear from the forecast there will be some rain first," said Leath. "Rain does wash the chemicals away."

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