Get ready, winter’s on the way; what you can do now to prepare

A layer of frost blanketed the area at the beginning of last week. By the end of the week, temperatures approached 80 degrees.

It was supposed to drop back into the mid-40s this past weekend, and then hover around the 50s this week.

Welcome to southern Indiana.

Saturday marked the final day of Winter Weather Preparedness Week. Declared by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, it’s a time for Hoosiers to make sure they are prepared when winter weather arrives.

Local and state departments that take care of the roads also check to ensure they are set for the first ice or snow event.

They actually began preparing for the upcoming winter season as early as the spring.

Bill Everhart, director of the Seymour Department of Public Works, said the city orders its salt through a contract bid through the Indiana Department of Transportation in the spring.

The commitment for 400 tons of salt already has been turned in.

“We just order it 100 tons at a time,” he said. “Whenever our current inventory on site is depleted down to a point where we need to replenish, we’ll release against that commitment and get it delivered.”

Last winter, Everhart said the city used about 500 tons of salt on the nearly 100 miles of streets.

Seymour has five large salt trucks and this year will go from two to four pickups. The two new pickups have salt spreaders that can be used on dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs, he said.

If the city is predicted to receive at least 2 inches of ice or snow, snowplows will hit the streets ahead of time, Everhart said.

“Sometimes, if it’s just going to be a freezing condition or something, we may go out and do some of the primary streets,” he said. “We may put some salt down on them just as a precautionary measure for freezing conditions.”

The number of employees depends on the size of the winter storm, he said.

“If it’s an around-the-clock situation, we’ll have two crews operating 12 hours each, and each one of them has five drivers on the trucks and usually one or two people back at the shop for any breakdowns or loading trucks,” Everhart said.

Chris Mains, Crothersville’s street superintendent, said he orders road salt in July.

He does that because a few winters ago when bad weather hit the town, it was difficult to get salt because the larger municipalities already had placed their orders.

“If you don’t get ahead of the game, you might get left out,” Mains said. “We just try to make sure we’ve got everything we need prior to the winter season rolling in. That way, we’re ahead of the game and not trying to play catch-up after the fact.”

Plus, salt is cheaper in July when it’s not in demand.

“Once it becomes in demand, then of course, they are just like everybody else — they are going to raise their prices,” he said.

Mains said he ordered 40 tons for this winter. Last year, he didn’t order any because he had some left over from the previous year. Then the winter was mild and didn’t require as much salt.

Roads will be pretreated if the forecast calls for sleet or a couple of inches of snow, he said.

About a month ago, town employees checked the machinery they use to plow and treat the nine miles of streets in town to make sure they are ready to go. They have two snowplows and a salt box.

“Other than that, we just kind of sit and wait for the bad weather,” he said.

INDOT began preparing for the winter season soon after the snow and ice melted in the spring.

Its priority is removing snow and preventing ice on the more than 11,000 miles of interstates, U.S. highways and state routes.

Last winter, INDOT’s yellow plow trucks logged nearly 3.8 million miles — the equivalent of 152 trips around the earth or eight round trips to moon, according to a news release from INDOT.

This winter, INDOT will have more than 1,000 plow trucks available to clear roads of snow and ice. It purchased 72 new trucks to replace older equipment and 12 new tow plows, making 22 available for this winter. The tow plow is pulled behind and to the side of an INDOT plow truck, allowing one driver to clear two lanes at once.

INDOT recently completed inspections of its snow and ice equipment, and plow operators already are familiarizing themselves with their snow routes.

Last year during winter operations, INDOT staff logged 202,168 hours — the equivalent of nearly 17,000 12-hour shifts, according to the news release. Mechanics, salt loaders and radio operators support INDOT’s snowfighters to keep the trucks running around the clock when needed.

In the warmer months, INDOT resurfaced and sealed state highways to prevent water from seeping into the pavement and forming potholes. It has repaved 580 miles and sealed more than 1,200 lane miles of interstates, U.S. highways and state routes, according to the news release.

With overnight temperatures dipping, the risks increase for frost and freezing fog on bridges. Bridge decks are cooled by air above and beneath and are the first to freeze.

To prevent icy bridges, INDOT’s yellow trucks spray bridge decks with a brine solution of 23 percent salt and 77 percent water. In some locations, the brine is made by recycling water used to wash INDOT trucks.

When air temperatures approach or drop below 32 degrees, INDOT advises drivers to reduce speeds and minimize lane changes while crossing bridges.

Last winter, 211,428 tons of granular salt and more than 2.8 million gallons of salt brine were deployed on state and federal highways, according to INDOT. The state continues to receive deliveries of salt and already has more than 225,000 tons on hand.

This year, INDOT’s winter operations will benefit from four new salt storage structures built through its long-term facility replacement program. New facilities near Logansport and Monticello in northwest Indiana and near Loogootee and NSA Crane in southwest Indiana provide a higher storage capacity and much quicker and safer salt loading for improved efficiency during winter operations.

At a glance

The Indiana Department of Transportation released the following information so the public is ready for the upcoming winter season.

Prepare your vehicle

The time to get your car ready for winter is before the snow starts flying. Use this checklist to make sure you check out all of the important parts:

  • Check and add antifreeze
  • Top out window washer fluid
  • Replace worn wiper blades
  • Check tire tread and air pressure
  • Test anti-lock brakes
  • Check battery and make sure terminals are free of corrosion
  • Check exhaust system, heater and defroster
  • Change oil at 3,000 to 5,000 miles

Prepare for emergencies

Assemble an emergency kit as a precaution against breakdowns and slide-offs. Always keep these items handy in your vehicle:

  • First aid kit
  • Blankets and extra warm clothing
  • High-calorie food and water
  • Crucial medications
  • Cellphone charger
  • Road salt, sand or kitty litter for tire traction
  • Small shovel or ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Matches, candle and small can for drinking melted snow

Also, keep your cellphone charged and with you and the vehicle with at least a half tank of gas.

At a glance

Subscribe to receive text and email alerts about Indiana Department of Transportation projects and services at bit.ly/INDOTsubscription.

Find links to INDOT’s regional Facebook and Twitter pages at bit.ly/INDOTsocial. INDOT will be providing snow and ice removal updates with posts tagged #INDOTWinterOps.

New for this winter, INDOT’s TrafficWise website now includes a “Personalize your 511” feature. Users can sign up for email or text alerts for specific routes, such as commutes to and from work or larger areas drawn on the map. Visit indot.carsprogram.org/#favorites and create a free account.

When yellow plow trucks are deployed, INDOT winter operations staff will update the TrafficWise traveler information service with road conditions for interstates, U.S. highways and state roads. For road conditions, crashes and construction information, call 800-261-ROAD (7623) or 511 from a mobile phone.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.