MODOT Prepares Early For Winter Weather Threat

MODOT Prepares Early For Winter Weather Threat

Crews began around sunrise to prepare trucks for the potential for rough conditions.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Missouri Department of Transportation knows how to prepare for winter weather.

They began filling their trucks with salt and brine at seven in the morning.

"We try to get out ahead of the game, so we have treatment down for traction," said Assistant Maintenance Supervisor Jim Bosley.  "Cars drive on it and it helps them off the ice more quickly.  Then when the snow comes we have plows to plow it off.  That ice isn't already bonded to the pavement with snow on top, which makes it more treacherous."

Some engineers started the day before.

Trucks are filled with a rough salt, poured into the back.

The drivers themselves go with the brine and beet juice mixture that will make the operation more effective.

"It's better for us to be out there before the storm than after the storm," Bosley said, joking that they have plowed flurries in previous storms.  "If we're there before, we can get a little bit of treatment down.  People see us out there, and they'll slow down.  It's tough for us to get out there after things have already gone crazy."

Maintenance and Traffic Engineer Marty Liles agrees with this proactive approach to winter weather.

"If we waited until the snow or the ice or whatever is already falling, we're going to be late.  Things are already going to be happening," Liles said.

Liles says the Emergency Operations Center - EOC - opened at 8am.

The EOC is the headquarters for the Northwest MODOT Region.

Along with highway cameras and a weather radar, operators answer calls for updates on road conditions from drivers in all 20 counties.

"All the information for our 20 counties in the Northwest District actually comes into here and funnels into this situation so we can keep all that information centralized," Liles said.

One resource at the EOC at MODOT is the traffic conditions map, with a weather radar overlay.  It's the same kind of radar I would use or Mike Bracciano would use to diagnose current conditions. 

It's all about knowing what's coming before it gets here.

Bosley says communication between other entities can also be very valuable.

"Where we're at, we communicate with everyone around us," he said.  "When storms come, whether from the north or - like this one - from the south, as the storm moves forward we have the old "phone tree" as we call it and they start letting everyone know it's coming.  That's so they don't get blindsided or caught unaware."

Everyone we spoke to at MODOT warns drivers to drive more slowly, no matter what falls, and to give plow trucks plenty of room to get their job done.

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