Road crews prepare for winter weather

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Everyone's eyes are glued to the weather forecast in anticipation of what the winter weather is going to bring.

Members of the Arkansas Department of Transportation are already preparing for it.

Brad Smithee, District Engineer for District 10 with the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said they're monitoring several weather sources to put the best possible plan of attack together.

"We, of course, follow all the weather services that we can," Smithee said. "We try to put the best package of information together possible that we can. Of course, we follow your Region 8 Weather, we're connected to the National Weather Service and we even use a service called Iteraus that actually gives us forecasting for roadway temperatures. We've been doing that for the last couple of years now. It's a great additive tool to put a package together for our plan."

Smithee said they're preparing all the equipment and vehicles they might need now.

"As near as we can tell, right now," Smithee said. "What we're doing today on Wednesday and Thursday is watching things very closely. By the end of our business today we anticipate having all of our equipment that's available loaded with liquid carrying capacity. Maybe it's a bulk salt spreader, the plows will be ready. We want to be ready for whatever may change in the forecast. In the last 24 hours, it seems to be diminishing, a little, but that can change. So often in Northeast Arkansas our weather depends on one or two degrees. This event looks just like that. So, it's really hard to deal with that and plan for that. We're going to have our equipment ready by the end of the day. As the forecast develops and gets a little more logical for tomorrow, we're going to decide what our best plan of attack is. And if it requires us to do anything as a pre-treating agent."

Smithee said they have a number of possible plans in place, but with how quickly the forecast can change they're waiting to see what they're facing when it falls.

"At this hour on Wednesday," Smithee said "It looks like our best agent is going to be rock salt because the event is going to be led by rain following cold air. And so, it's going to be wet and the liquid products that we use like brine and beet juices, they'll wash away. If we get them on the roads they won't stick. Even rock salt with too much rain will be washed from the roadway. If it's too dry, traffic blows it off the road when the event happens. If it's too wet, it dissolves also. So, there's just never a great opportune time unless it's dry before the event and then we can get that liquid out there and let it dry on the surface. So, this is a typical Northeast Arkansas event and we're just waiting to see what our best opportunities are. At this point, just timing of the rain and that cold air is going to be really important to how it affects the roadways."

Smithee said their current plan will help them deal best with the wet roads, but if conditions change so will their plan.

"We want to do the best we can," Smithee said. "We want to pretreat the roads from becoming slick, but the pretreatments don't ensure that the roads won't get slick. Generally, it allows it not to adhere well. And that way once the event starts it's easier to remove it from the roadway. It really cuts hours off of an event on a slick road. And with an event that may bring as much rain as this. It's looking like maybe an inch or two of rain. That washes everything away. And so, probably the best thing we can offer right now to this event and to try and fight this event looks like rock salts directly applied to elevated surfaces and our troublesome spots, hillsides, not roadsides but curves and things that are always problematic. And so, right now it looks like that's the best we're going to be able to do unless the forecast does change and allows us to approach it in a larger capacity."

Smithee said they'll be watching the weather and are trying to be prepared for anything.

He said when they feel it's going to be a huge, statewide event, they get in conference mode where mobilization may be required for additional help to an area.

However, it looks like this event is mainly for the Northeast Arkansas area.

While they have been in contact with other agencies in other parts, they don't feel it will be necessary for this event.

He said in the meantime, they're going to pay attention to the weather and roll out as soon as they can with what they feel will work best.

District 5 Engineer Bruce Street said Wednesday that crews spent the day getting the road equipment ready. They also plan to watch the weather forecast to decide whether or not to pre-treat the roads with brine or wait until after and salt the roads.

If it rains beforehand, crews will not pretreat the roads, Street said.

For more information about the Arkansas Department of Transportation, click here.

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