Highway crews make preps for impending winter storm

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – With a winter storm barreling its waytoward the state, the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department stayedbusy making preparations to keep drivers safe.

The impending storm is forecasted to bring ice and snow tothe area, and road crews are reminding people that they will work to clearhigher traffic areas first. Highway department officials, however, are unsurewhat exactly the storm will bring, so it may surprise people that they begangetting ready for something like this for months now.

Walter McMillian, an AHTD district engineer who oversees aseven-county area, says he hopes to see snowflakes when the winter stormarrives.

"In our line of work," McMillan said, "the worst thing thatcan happen is usually freezing rain. That's much harder to handle than snow orsleet."

Snow may be easier to clear away from the roads than ice,but McMillan says the preparations for either accumulation are all the same.Two months ago, road crews began stockpiling salt and sand if the need should arise.Now that it has, all the highway department's trucks have gotten outfitted withsnow plows and salt spreaders.

"One thing we did when we had the prediction [of a storm]two weeks ago," McMillan explained, "we put everything on, made sure everythingworked – all of the hydraulics worked, all of the electrical components worked.Every time you take that stuff out and put it back on, you have some bugs towork out. We'll go through that [Wednesday] afternoon and then in the morningand have all that type stuff taken care of by the time [the storm] hitsThursday night."

If needed, he will also split crews into two 12-hour shiftsso that the removal process can run 24 hours. He has yet to determine when todeploy all the road workers, but the fleet will likely assemble Thursdayevening. The main priority for them, he said, will be to clear the main roadsfirst.

"We start off with the ones that have the most traffic onthem and sort of work our way down through the system," McMillan said. "AroundJonesboro, Highway 63, the interchanges on 63 [and] Highway 49 are the mainones…In Paragould it's [Highway] 412 and 49. If go to Walnut Ridge, it's 412and 63."

For now he is keeping a close watch on radar to see whatwill hit the area. He is also urging drivers to remember a few things over thenext few days. If the roads get icy or covered in snow, people should go slowly,take extra time to travel places and stay at home if at all possible.

Road crews may even start pre-treating major highways,overpasses and bridges as early as Thursday afternoon to head off the storm.

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