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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Our road warriors

Friday, February 21, 2003

MoDOT attacks potholes created by bad weather

SIKESTON -- Warmer temperatures and melting snow have given the Missouri Department of Transportation road workers a chance to catch their breaths this week.

But don't expect to find members of the MoDOT Southeast District to be sitting around twiddling their thumbs. All of the salt they've used to melt snow and ice has taken a toll on the roadways, prompting the need for pothole repairs.

"With the amount of snow the area's received so far this season, the salt creates a lot of wear and tear on the roads," pointed out Stan Johnson, MoDOT Sikeston District engineer. "So when it's not snowing, we'll more than likely be out patching potholes."

Last year MoDOT used only 6,000 tons of salt. Currently MoDOT has ordered more than three times the amount -- 20,300 tons of salt this season. They ordered 8,300 tons in the past month alone, according to MoDOT officials.

"The salt and chemicals are necessary during winter storms to keep roads as safe as possible for motorists," said MoDOT Operations Engineer Willie Chasteen, "but it does take its toll on our roads."

MoDOT is working between bouts with snow to repair the potholes, but they can't know where every pothole is, Chasteen explained.

No one knows better than the people who drive the roads every day which roads need repaired, said Angela Wilson, MoDOT Southeast District public information manager. Anyone who is aware of a problem can report a road in need of repair to MoDOT by phone or e-mail, she said.

Last weekend's ice as well as winter's previous snows have kept the road crews busy.

Johnson has worked for MoDOT approximately 15 years and said this season is the worst in quite a while. It's been one snowstorm right after another, he noted. But the last three or four years, it's been better than usual, he said, adding he thinks past mild winters may be a reason for all the snow this year.

"We usually get a lot of precipitation later on in the season like at the end of February or the first of March," Johnson said. "It seems like the amount of salt we use continues to climb every week."

The winter season has been sort of a chain reaction, Johnson noted. The first snow the area had in December was one of the biggest challenges the Southeast District faced this year, Johnson recalled.

"It's been tough on everybody," Johnson said. "It's hard on our employees. When snow comes in, our guys will have to cancel their plans with their families to come into work."

As soon as the snow or ice begins, Johnson said the trucks are out clearing away the snow. A lot of people will call and say they haven't seen a snow plow out, he said, adding that one trip back and forth for a snow plow, plus refilling salt can take over two hours.

Of course ice is a lot harder to treat than snow, Johnson admitted.

"With ice, all we can really do is put down salt to give drivers traction," he explained. "It's difficult to plow ice. High temperatures melt the snow and the salt helps burn the ice off the roadways. The sun is the best helper in icy situations."

Even with big equipment, road crews can still get in a jam, Johnson said. "Our trucks and snow plows are heavy enough, but they still give us fits at times. One guy had to literally turn around and back up to put the cinders ahead of him because it was so slick, Johnson recalled.

Regardless of the extra amounts of bad weather this winter, MoDOT continues to be ready. Chasteen said materials are still in good supply and crews will continue to make travels as safe as possible when the weather turns otherwise.

And if the National Weather Service's forecast for weekend snow proves true, road crews will be out plowing the roads again. The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., predicts rain or snow likely Sunday night and Monday morning. Monday temperatures are predicted to be in upper 20s.

Johnson cautioned motorists in case another snow storm moves into the area this year. "Please stay far enough behind us and slow down," he urged. "That's really all we ask."

For more information concerning road conditions, visit www.modot.org or call 1-888-275-6636.