Ready to roll for snow

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By Brad Bowman

 State and county road crews ready salt trucks for the county’s more than 400 miles of roadways in anticipation of the winter storm season.


At press time, Henry County’s forecast included rain and a 40 percent chance of snow with light accumulation in parts of the county Friday. Before dawn Friday morning, rain turned to snow, and on some roads, rested on patches of ice.

Despite the forecast of pending snow, Terry Justice, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Superintendent for the Henry County Maintenance Crew, said if the snow is mixed with rain the crews will not prep roads with brine.

“We don’t use the brine, a mixture of water and salt, if the snow is mixed with rain it’s not cold enough,” Justice said. “The brine keeps the snow from sticking to the road and we also can’t use it if it is below 20 degrees. It basically gives us time to get to the main priority areas.”

The Henry County state maintenance crew has calcium chloride, 2,000 tons of salt, a 12 member crew with 9 drivers to cover more than 220 miles of state roadway for main priority areas, which receive heavy traffic like I-71, KY 55 and US 421.

“We will brine the roads during the day once the forecast is going to be just snow and sit with our trucks loaded. We run 24 hours and pull 16 hour shifts if we are expecting a lot of snow,” Justice said. “Last year we only used 900 tons of salt since we didn’t have much snow. The year before last we used 3,000.”

The crew uses calcium chloride on the snow when it is colder and it is mixed with salt for faster results.

 The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet maintains 62,097 miles of roads across the state. The Henry County Road Department clears the remaining county roads through which the routes pass.

“We have 500 tons of salt on call, which we could have within a couple of days and 100 tons of reserve,” said Glenn Baxter, head of the Henry County Road Department. “We also have 5,000 tons of cinders (ash that comes from power plants after they burn coal) that doesn’t melt the snow, but helps provide traction. We mix a third of salt with two thirds of cinders.”

Baxter and his crew will handle 200 miles of county road with seven trucks and can cover the county’s asphalt under normal circumstances within six to seven hours.

“We run seven routes and basically start at the barn in a systematic formula,” Baxter said. “We don’t designate any places over another. We treat every road equally. Anyone can have a wreck anywhere at any time.”

The Henry County Road Department didn’t start using salt until four or five years ago, according to Baxter whose crew includes seven single axle trucks that can hold 8 to 9 tons of salt and cinder mixture.

“Most have to reload to finish their route,” Baxter said. “We basically leave the route up to the driver. I don’t want them to blame me if they run off of the road,” Baxter joked.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s road crews hold 415,000 tons of salt, 1.1 million gallons of liquid calcium chloride and 900,000 gallons of salt brine for winter storms throughout the state with the ability to produce more brine if needed.

The KYTC’s advise drivers to follow these tips during the snow season:

• Allow plenty of time to get to your destination and do not use cruise control

•Remember that bridges, exit and entrance ramps may be icy while other  areas are clear

•Allow up to four times more distance for braking in snow compared to dry pavement

•Steer into the skid. Ease your foot off the gas while cautiously steering in the direction you want your vehicle to go

Call 511 or visit www.511.ky.govfor road conditions on major routes. Visit www. transportation.ky.gov/Maintenance/Documents/Snow%20and%20Ice%20Maps/HENRY.pdfto view the priority snow and ice removal routes for Henry County.

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