First flakes signal cold shoulders

Friday, November 16, 2007

The first snowflakes of the season -- make that snow flake -- brushed past the windows at the BannerGraphic Thursday, signaling that winter is just around the corner.

Local road crews have been busy checking on equipment and stockpiling chemicals as they prepare for the first significant snowfall of the season, which statistics indicate could come any time near Thanksgiving and thereafter.

Fred West, superintendent of the Cloverdale subdistrict of INDOT, said he has been busy interviewing drivers to help clear snow from 1,100 lane miles of roadway in the subdistrict.

He also said that annual inspections were performed earlier this month and that all 35 snow-plow trucks in the subdistrict checked out OK and are ready for use.

"We should be in really good shape," West said.

Things are also moving along at the Putnam County Highway Department and Greencastle Department of Public Works.

Highway Superintendent Dave Sutherlin told the BannerGraphic that the approximately 10 trucks used by the department are ready to go, if need be.

Greencastle Street Commissioner Paul Wilson noted that the five trucks owned by his department underwent recent inspections and are ready to go as well.

All departments have plans in place and different types of chemicals set aside for fighting the snow.

At Cloverdale, they use a salt brine to pre-treat the roads and then once the snow starts, they follow up with plowing and salt. West said he treats the salt with magnesium chloride, which lowers the temperature that the salt will melt the snow.

Plain salt works best in melting the snow to temperatures as low at 25 degrees, West explained, while the magnesium chloride extends the range to 15 degrees.

The same concoction is used by Greencastle and is called Clear Lane, Wilson said. It used to be pink in color, but it was changed to green, he said, so drivers should not be alarmed when they see it on the streets this winter.

Things are bit different at the county highway garage where Sutherlin says he uses a mixture of sand and salt.

At Cloverdale, West explained that they use the pre-treatment of salt brine because it is less expensive than magnesium chloride. He said the salt brine costs between 6 and 10 cents per gallon to produce, while the "mag-chloride" mix is about $1 per gallon.

The other departments in the county don't use the brine solution.

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