WSDOT ready for winter snows

Published on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Just call her La Niña’s twin sister.

Weather experts say heavy snowfall is on the way for the Northwest with another La Niña system moving in.

With this in mind, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) crews are getting their rigs ready to fight their way through state routes blanketed with snow.

WSDOT has a 30-person team ready to react to any snow and ice that may threaten to cover Whatcom County, WSDOT maintenance manager Ric Willand said. Snow plows and salt spreaders have been installed on the 14 trucks that keep the state highways in the county clear of the white stuff, and seven strategically placed supply sheds have been stacked to the rafters with ice-fighting materials, such as liquid deicer, salt and sand.

“We want to be ready before the snow hits,” Willand said. “Some of this equipment has sat for several months in the garage; we’re getting it out and dusting it off, making sure it still works and is ready to go.”

For Whatcom County specifically, WSDOT runs four trucks on the six state highways east of I-5 on specific loops based on need, WSDOT spokesman Dave Chesson said.

Though WSDOT’s use of deicing material depends on the severity of the weather, the department typically uses 60,000 tons of salt per year statewide, Chesson said. What material crews choose depends on the conditions, with some being applied in advance of snow and other being applied during a snowstorm. Whenever WSDOT crews start work on ice control, they go big: Chesson said winter ice control is the department’s single most expensive maintenance activity, making up close to 20 percent of the entire WSDOT maintenance budget.

While it’s WSDOT’s job to keep the state’s highways clear, safe driving still remains the responsibility of the individual.

Chesson reminded drivers to prepare their cars for winter before the snow and ice hit by carrying a blanket, water, cell phone and snow chains at all times.

More information on safe winter driving can be found at www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter.