AREA -- The winter of 2003 has been a challenge for everyone.
South-central Missouri has already seen as much as 20 inches of snow and precipitation this winter. Oregon County has not seen that much but enough to cause hazardous travel on local and state maintained roadways.
As always, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has prepared in advance for winter weather with what MoDOT officials have called annual preparations and extensive planning to keep the public moving. So far this winter MoDOT crews in this part of the state have used 21,300 tons of salt and 12,000 tons of abrasive mixture material.
This year's weather has already surpassed winter 2001's 18,255 tons of salt used. The average winter price per ton of salt is $32. These total do not include salt that is on order to handle snows to come.
"We have approximately 170 trucks ready and waiting at the 38 local maintenance buildings across the 13 counties in the district including Oregon County," says District Engineer Tom Stehn.
Many of these trucks carry 2,000-gallon tanks filled with salt brine, a saltwater solution that is used as a pre-treatment on bridges and roads. Each tank covers 30 miles of roadway per load. "That gives us a two or three hour start on most storms, enough time to call people out. We also added some 14-foot plows this year and improved technology on our spreaders to make them more efficient," he said.
The engineer said after the pre-treatment, salt is applied to the roads and if it keeps snowing, a salt and abrasive mixture is applied.
All of the trucks are equipped with spreaders and snow plows. The newer spreaders are computer monitored to calibrate more precise coverage. Data can be downloaded from the spreader to see how much salt has been used and at what rate. The sensors in the operating system allow the spreader to adjust its salt according to the truck's speed.
Stehn said this type of control can lead to a big savings in material, something that can be critical during a series of snowstorms like the area has seen this winter when salt supplies can dwindle.
MoDOT's South Central District that includes Oregon County uses 170 trucks to cover the nearly 8,000 lane-miles of roadways in the 13-county region. Stehn said during storms the crews work around the clock in 12-hour shifts. He said during an average snowfall crews will use about 200 pounds of salt per mile to melt ice and snow.
U.S. Route 63 through Oregon County is one of the priority routes in the region when the roads become hazardous. Other high priorities in the county include steep grades, sharp curves, intersections, bridges, bridge approaches and railroad crossing approaches.
Stehn said during severe winter weather in a life threatening emergency, MoDOT equipment is freed up to clear roads, driveways and even private driveways so emergency vehicles and equipment can get through.
These emergencies must be channeled thorough local law enforcement agencies. If an emergency does arise Oregon County residents needing assistance must contact local law enforcement so they can contact the necessary people and MoDot can assist.
Stehn said MoDOT plows cannot clear private driveways or private property except in the case of an emergency. He said property owners are responsible for the removal of snow and ice from private driveways.
Winter is not over and motorists are urged to use caution when MoDOT trucks are on the road. The trucks travel less than 40 mph when applying salt brine and snowplows usually travel around 20 mph.
MoDot advises motorists to stay back at least 100 feet from these vehicles.