Conditions make for slick roads

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 10, 2011

By Emily Ford
and Karissa Minn
Street and transportation officials on Monday urged motorists to stay home and warned pedestrians to navigate icy sidewalks with care, as weather forecasters predicted more snow and ice for today.
“This snow’s going to be around a while,” said Tim Arey, a supervisor in the Salisbury Street Division. “Not necessarily on the roads but on the landscape and sidewalks, and we will clean those as best we can.”
Salisbury prepared Friday for the pending snowfall by putting chains and snowblades on city trucks and readying sand and salt spreaders, Arey said.
“We were prepared,” he said.
At 5:30 a.m. Monday, crews began putting down salt and sand on city streets, especially in areas knows for slickness.
“Anywhere you’ve got a hill or a sharp curve,” he said.
Motorists in the South aren’t accustomed to winter driving conditions and often don’t realize the additional stopping distance required on slippery roads, he said.
Crews paid special attention to roads around the VA Medical Center, Rowan Regional Medical Center and emergency routes used by ambulances and fire trucks.
As the temperature fell Monday, officials began to worry about black ice forming on roads.
“That’s one of our biggest concerns,” said Patrick Snyder, another supervisor in the city Street Division. “That’s why I have everybody working.”
Sand and salt is the city’s best defense in icy conditions, Arey said.
“That’s going to help keep those areas in control for those who have to get out, and those who don’t have to get out, please stay home,” he said.
The Street Division has between 28 and 30 employees. The city has a motor grader and eight snow plows — four equipped with sanders — for winter weather.
By noon Monday, the city had gone through six truckloads of a sand and salt mix, Snyder said.
John Thomason, transportation supervisor for the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Rowan County branch, said primary roads and interstate highways were clear as of 2 p.m. Monday, but snow may cover them again.
“The temperature is at its peak now and is going to be dropping, so they’re going to be freezing,” Thomason said. “We won’t have a black ice problem if they’re snow-covered … but there will be some icing problems anywhere this stuff is melting and then refreezing.”
Black ice could continue to be a problem the next couple of days, he said. Travel should be avoided if possible this morning, and drivers who must be out on the road should use caution.
To prepare for the storm, Thomason said, trucks sprayed brine onto county roads all day Friday and Sunday.
The county’s NCDOT branch is using 28 trucks with spreaders and plows, five state graders, seven contract graders and four contract trucks with spreaders to clear the roads. Interstate highways and primary roads will be the first priority, he said, with secondary roads to follow.
“We’re working intersections right now, plowing and salting,” Thomason said. “We’ll stay at that until about 8 p.m. or so. We’ll have salt trucks and a skeleton crew there for emergencies tonight, and then we’ll go back at it early in the morning.”
Snow and ice impacts the Salisbury Public Services Department in every way, Director Tony Cinquemani said.
Most frustrating, he said, is the delay in leaf and limb pick-up.
The city already was a week behind due to holiday snowfall and now could fall up to two weeks behind, Cinquemani said.
Garbage collection will resume today with crews attempting to pick up Monday’s and Tuesday’s trash after trucks sand the streets.
“We will start on Monday’s first and work as hard as we can and late as we can,” he said. “We will get the garbage up. Don’t be surprised if we are working Saturday.”
Leaf and limb collection, however, must wait until the material dries out. The leaf vacuums don’t work if yard waste is snow- or ice-covered, Cinquemani said.
The city can use a front-end loader and dump truck to collect wet yard waste if needed, but “efficiency just goes downhill as you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
Normally, the city is done with leaf and limb collection by the second week of January.
“Folks, just understand we are behind,” he said. “We will get caught up.”
Once the weather improves, Cinquemani said he can pull crews from six other public services divisions to help with leaf and limb collection. Among 500 pieces of heavy equipment and vehicles, the city has six leaf vacuums.
“I promise you that these folks are working as hard as they can to get everybody back on the weekly schedule they expect,” he said. “When Mother Nature throws up this stuff, you have to back up and take care of what you need to.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264 and reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.