Crews work on roads; Schools close as snow moves in

Posted January 19, 2009 10:52 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina Department of Transportation workers are working on roads as more than 250 businesses and schools plan to open late or close Tuesday.

All day Monday, DOT trucks refilled their tanks with brine –– a water-and-salt mixture that helps prevent ice from bonding to the pavement – and rolled out to treat bridges and major roads before snow could start to fall.

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Large trucks, which can cover three lanes, are used on interstates and highways. Smaller, 1,600-gallon tanks are used for ramps, bridges and turn lanes.

In the Triangle, DOT crews will work first on Interstates 40 and 540 and U.S. Highways 1, 64, 264 and 401. Once snow or ice starts to accumulate, DOT will switch to using salt.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol urged drivers to review safe driving procedures if they have to drive during the morning rush hour.

DOT has about 6,000 workers to operate more than 2,500 plow trucks, 632 front-end loaders and back hoes, 650 motor graders and five snow blowers. The department also uses pickup trucks outfitted with snowplows on less-traveled roads.

"We've got new equipment this year, more trucks, so we can hopefully get on more major roads," Steve Halsey, a DOT engineer in Wake County, said.

Wake County activated its Emergency Operations Center Monday morning, putting equipment and personnel on alert to respond to a weather emergency if one occurs.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said about 200 city employees will work 12-hour rotating shifts, operating 20 salt spreaders in the city. A new salt barn in northwest Raleigh will speed the city's response, he said.

After Monday evening's rush hour, city workers began spreading salt or a salt-sand mix, concentrating on bridges and roads.

Crews in Cary and Chapel Hill were taking some of the same precautions. They applied brine to roads and bridges and loaded plows and spreaders with de-icing agents.

Local governments can be expected to clear thoroughfares first, then primary roads and through streets in subdivisions, followed by cul-de-sacs. Most towns do not clear private parking lots, including those in apartment and condominium complexes.

Frozen roadways could be a lingering problem. Temperatures will hover near the freezing mark Tuesday and dip back down Wednesday before beginning a gradual rise toward the end of the work week.