Road crews say they’re ready for winter storm

Throughout Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, crews will be working long shifts overnight to keep the roads clear

The Ohio Department of Transportation prepares for winter with new salt and equipment checks
FILE photo


(WKBN) – With conditions deteriorating from rain to sleet and then to snow, road crews in both Pennsylvania and Ohio say they’re ready.

Conditions were warm Friday morning but temperatures quickly dropped. Several school districts dismissed early due to the weather, and events and activities planned for Friday night were canceled.

Even before the rain started Friday morning, supervisors with the Ohio Turnpike Commission and other road crews were checking the conditions. Whether it was rolling down the highway using a gauge to determine the road temperature or keeping a close eye on the radar, the plan was to get trucks out on the road well ahead of the storm.

“I want them stationed, ready to go when this does hit so I can keep this road clear,” said Mike Sheridan, with the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

On average, the Ohio Turnpike goes through 140,000 gallons of liquid chemicals and 66,500 tons of salt each year.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is monitoring Ohio’s weather to determine how fast the storm is moving.

“We’ll be putting [crews] out. Our interstates will be manned. We’ll have trucks out on the routes, sitting on the crossovers or out patrolling,” said Darrell Chapman, Mercer County’s maintenance manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

In Trumbull County, crews with the engineer’s office have been keeping an eye on the storm, too, and say they’re prepared. Highway Superintendent Tom Klejka has been watching the radar and conditions that will change throughout the day.

“When we start to see the temperatures drop below the 32 point, we’ll start to ash the intersections and the hazardous areas — curves and hills — and then once it actually starts to freeze over, we’ll start to do more on the straightaways and so on and so forth,” he said.

Inside the dome, frontloaders mixed grit into the salt — the mixture crews will use to treat the roads.

“With this event, with all the rain leading up to it, it’s critical that you put some grit down on those roads because it doesn’t take long for them to refreeze when they’re not heavily-traveled,” Klejka said.

Crews say their biggest concern was the road becoming slush-covered before the snow starts to fall, which is pretty much what ended up happening.

“Slush will hydroplane you faster than snow will because you have no contact between your tires and the pavement,” Sheridan said.

He said he will have drivers working 12-hour shifts around the clock for as long as needed.

In Mercer County, crews that started at noon are likely to be in for a long night as well.

“They’ll work ’til 8. We’ll hold over what we need to for the intensity of the storm, or the event, and then we’ll bring in at midnight, will be the start of the ‘A’ shift,” Chapman said.

Klejka said they’ll have 24 trucks out throughout Trumbull County and they’ll be maintaining the county’s 460 miles of roads Friday night and well into Saturday.

“Most of our employees have been doing this for a number of years so they’re very familiar with the conditions and if they get tired, they just call us and we’ll switch them out.”

Supervisors say once the snow stops Saturday morning, plow crews should be able to clear the highways fairly quickly.

In the meantime, they’re urging drivers to follow key reminders:

  • Give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your destination
  • Leave enough room between your car and the vehicle ahead of you
  • Stay off your cell phone
  • Four-wheel drive may get you going, but it does little to help stop on ice

This is a system that Storm Team 27 is watching closely. We will continue to bring you updates throughout this event as more information becomes available.

WKBN is your source for the Valley’s latest weather information. Download our app for Apple and Android devices and sign up for weather text alerts.

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