Facing The Blast

It’s January in Warren County, snow is to be expected.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory in effect through Friday morning.

On Thursday, NWS Meteorologist Craig Evanego said cold northwesterly air was expected to bring up to four more inches of snow by morning.

The entities that have to deal with that accumulation were ready.

In general, the drivers of plow trucks will see the same stretch of road every four hours during a storm.

“The department’s goal is for trucks to pass by the same point every three to four hours, with less frequent cycles on roads with the lowest traffic volumes,” PennDOT Warren County Maintenance Manager Wes Hess said. “This is a guide and is what can be expected most of the time. Accidents, disabled vehicles and breakdowns for example would have an effect on cycle times.”

“Generally, when we have a normal call out, we’ll have three trucks out,” City of Warren Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz said. “Three trucks can do the city in about three and a half hours.”

Through a decades-old agreement, city crews handle the state roads that pass through the city – particularly Pennsylvania Avenue, Market Street, and Conewango Avenue – and make sure those paths are cleared first. The loop around Warren General Hospital is also an early target, Holtz said.

On school days, “In the mornings we’re always very cognizant of hitting the school routes,” he said. “Then we branch out to the neighborhoods.”

PennDOT has 24 routes to treat the roads in the county.

“We will man all available equipment until the roadways are serviced and the storm is over,” Hess said. “Customers should not expect bare roads and we ask that they drive defensively to protect themselves from snow covered roadways.”

PennDOT’s drivers saw the same roads four times during the shift. “On average, an operator will work 12 hours and travel 150 miles,” Hess said.

In some storms, the drivers mostly spread salt or brine. On Thursday and Friday morning, the drivers were plowing and spreading.

Typically, salt and brine help melt ice or keep it from forming on roads.

The city received a shipment of salt ahead of the storm on Thursday.

“Salt sheds are in good shape,” Holtz said. “The mix is in good shape. From a materials standpoint we’re full and ready to go.”

But, anti-skid was in particular demand on Thursday.

“With the temperatures dropping into the single digits we will cut back on both brine and salt applications,” Hess said. “Anti-skid will be applied and used for traction. Chlorides are not effective during the predicted low temperatures.”

“When it gets extremely cold the ice treatment on roadways will not work – use extreme caution driving,” Warren County Public Safety Director Todd Lake said.

Whether or not anti-ice treatments will work, PennDOT asks that people who do not need to travel stay off the roads.

“This ensures that everyone stays safe and crews can focus on treating the roads,” Hess said.

For those who must, “Keep your windows and lights clear. Maintain a safe speed and following distance. Our employees do a great job, we appreciate your patience as we work long and hard to clear the roadways,” he said.