Every year, the Tennessee Department of Transportation begins its preparations for dealing with winter weather long before the season starts.
Just last month, we showed you how the snow plow drivers were even training in computerized simulators to teach them how to operate the machinery.
But way before fall began, 65,000 tons of salt was delivered and distributed to 36 bins in 26 counties.
Then when snow and ice arrive, it’s a step-by-step process to keeping roads clear.
Many times it all begins with salt brine:
“Brine is a pre-treatment. And so it’s basically just a salt and water mixture. And that goes on before the snow and ice. If we’re not getting rain ahead of the snow, we’ll do a coat of brine on the major routes. The liquid evaporates. What’s left is a salty residue,” said TDOT Community Relations Officers Kathryn Schulte.
And if the temperatures falls far enough, they can mix in calcium chloride. That’s called “hot brine” and it lowers the freezing point of water, which is particularly useful for ice.
Once the snow or ice has fallen, it’s time to add the granular salt but it’s important that the trucks distribute the salt correctly.
“We can calibrate them specifically to do about 400 pounds of salt per lane mile. And that’s something that’s important because we don’t want to putting out all this extra salt that gets wasted, but you don’t want to be putting in too little salt that it’s not doing the job,” said Schulte.
Last year TDOT introduced a new tool in their arsenal: under body snow plows which use hydraulic cylinders to push down with the weight of the truck. They found this was particularly helpful in giving more ice-cutting ability.
And every year, TDOT reviews the previous season to see where they can make improvements. So what did they learn from last winter?
“Clarksville…We had a lot of snow in Clarksville last year. So that is something we are looking at. They have a lot of state routes. But the crews up there have to cover both I-24 and I-65. So a lot of our resources in northern Tennessee have to go to the interstates. So we have to think ‘so if we only have a small amount of people that can only work on the state routes, what are going to be our top priorities over there’ and that’s something that we really have to look at every year,” said Schulte.
And observations and opinions from the public are important:
“We do take very seriously the calls that we get during winter weather. The TDOT comments are all logged, and so we can go through and see if there are a lot of complaints about a particular route,” added Schulte.