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DOT crews prepare for winter storms

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MOMEYER — State transportation workers in Nash County have readied for winter weather by checking equipment and training employees.

“You don’t want to wait until a storm to find out something isn’t working,” said Rodney Matthews, state transportation engineer for Nash County.

Matthews oversaw workers at the maintenance yard on U.S. 64 Alternate in Momeyer on Thursday as they checked whether winter weather equipment was ready to go. They looked for damage and lubricated and tightened hoses and gears on plows and spreaders.

Prior to checking the equipment, employees underwent training on safety, standard operating procedures and inclement weather plans.

The training is necessary because sometimes there are new employees who have yet to experience a severe winter storm, Matthews said. He’s been with the N.C. Department of Transportation for nearly four decades. The worst winter storm he remembers happened in 2000.

“We got like 19 to 20 inches of snow,” Matthews said. “It took several days to clear the roads.”

Depending on conditions, crews might pretreat roads with a saltwater mixture called brine to help keep ice from bonding to the pavement.

For use in Nash County, the state purchased two new dual tankers that can hold up to 40,000 gallons of saltwater solution. The bigger tanks allow trucks to go farther before having to return for a brine fill-up. The sprayers are computer-calibrated to the vehicle’s odometer so the faster the vehicle travels, the more brine is spread to equal 40 gallons per lane mile.

Brine costs 15 cents per gallon to produce. One mile of a single lane of road can be treated for about $6; rock salt costs about $14.38 to treat the same stretch of road.

At least one inch of snow has to fall before plowing is effective. After plowing roadways, workers spread a sand and salt mix, especially on bridges, overpasses and shady spots. Salt helps melt ice and snow, and sand provides extra traction to help vehicles stay on the road.

The equipment hasn’t been used since last winter, said Andrew Barksdale, state transportation public relations officer.

“This is an opportunity each fall for maintenance employees to re-familiarize themselves with the procedures and primary snow-removal routes before winter weather strikes,” Barksdale said. “One of the department’s primary duties is making sure roads and bridges are safe for travel after winter storms and other severe weather strike North Carolina.”

Clearing priorities for Nash County are Interstate 95, U.S. 64 and the short stretch of U.S. 264 in the southern end of the county, Matthews said.

State transportation workers do everything in Nash County from mowing to installing driveway pipes to picking up downed trees and dead animals to patching potholes, paving roads and helping with hurricane recovery.