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DOT braces for snow and ice

By Staff
Steady rain prevents use of brine for roads
By PETER WILLIAMS, Managing Editor
The N.C. Department of Transportation started getting ready early for a snowstorm that was schedule to hit the Washington area early today.
DOT was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. Eastern North Carolina hasn’t had a significant accumulation of snow for a number of years, Taylor said. Predictions Saturday were an inch to three inches were coming down east and as much as six inches further west.
The National Weather Service was predicting slippery roads, especially in locations north and west of U.S. Highways 17 and 264.
An anti-icing program is NCDOT’s first defense against winter weather, and crews pre-treated major routes throughout North Carolina with a special salt and water solution called salt brine. The brine sticks to the roads and keeps ice from bonding to the pavement during the first few hours of the storm.
Taylor said the brine wasn’t being used in the Washington area because the steady rain that preceded the colder weather would have washed it away. They were prepared with the old standby, rock salt.
NCDOT operates brine production plants in county maintenance yards in each of its 14 highway divisions, where crews have the capability to make salt brine and load it into application trucks to be sprayed onto the roadway. The department has the capacity to store 965,000 gallons of brine statewide for use when needed.
As precipitation starts to accumulate, NCDOT uses salt to treat roads. The department currently has 150,000 tons of salt in storage statewide. In a typical winter, it uses between 50,000 and 60,000 tons of it. Taylor said the local compound had about 500 tons of salt on hand.
NCDOT also has an array of equipment to dispense the salt and remove snow and ice from the roads. It includes more than 2,500 trucks equipped with plows and spreaders, 632 front-end loaders and backhoes, 650 motor graders and five snow blowers. NCDOT also outfits pick-up trucks with snowplows to clear less traveled roads in some areas. About 6,000 employees are available to operate this equipment and assist with winter weather response efforts, according to the DOT.
Taylor said between eight and 10 DOT workers would be available from the start and more would be called in if needed.
The department prioritizes which roads are cleared first, focusing on strategic corridors such as interstates and other multi-lane primary routes that are essential to the movement of intrastate and regional traffic. NCDOT then works to clear lower-volume primary roads and secondary roads, and then subdivision streets.
Motorists are asked to give snow plows and other NCDOT equipment plenty of room and to avoid unnecessary travel, both for their safety and to allow crews time to clear affected roadways.
For real-time information on road conditions, travelers can visit www.ncdot.org and click on “Travel Information” or call 511, the state’s toll-free travel information line.