Whatever the winter season brings, Missouri Department of Transportation workers will be ready by the first snowfall.
"Right now we're getting our trucks and cinder spreaders ready," said Jeff Byrge, senior crew worker for MoDOT's Southeast District. "We're greasing them and making sure they're all working and that the chains are working right."
The Southeast District is also waiting for the arrival of salt.
Throughout the state, MoDOT crews are busy preparing 1,800 snow removal vehicles in anticipation of winter's snow and ice.
Since 2000, MoDOT has spent $27.6 million annually on snow and ice removal. However, last year's mild winter saved MoDOT about $10 million. Even with a mild winter, more than 3,000 employees spent over 292,000 hours on snow and ice prevention and removal.
"This winter we will continue using the same basic tools to fight snow and ice: a priority system of routes to determine which roadways are cleared first, dedicated employees that work in shifts around the clock and a stockpile of snow and ice removal equipment and other materials," state maintenance engineer Jim Carney said.
During bad weather, MoDOT prioritizes all roads with the highest traffic volumes treated and cleared first. These include interstate highways and other major routes, such as Interstates 55 and 57 and Highway 60, which are continuously plowed and treated throughout a storm.
The next priority is heaviest traveled sections of state numbered and lettered routes like 61, 80 and 105 and ZZ. Lower-volume, lettered or numbered routes, particularly routes traveled by school buses and commuters are the next priority. Then during regular work hours, workers clean up accumulation on shoulders, bridge edges and interchanges.
"Maintenance crews work hard to clear roadways as quickly as possible after a snowfall, and the priority system works to get traffic moving again as smoothly as possible," Carney said.
Workers are on the roads 24 hours during storms. From now through the end of the winter season, a snow removal schedule has been set up and divided into two shifts of five or six workers in each crew.
For example, from the first through the 15th of the month, Byrge is on call for the night shift from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., and for the second half of the month, he will be on call during the day shift from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Although MoDOT works hard to clear roads fast and make them safe for motorists, it's also the motorist's job to drive cautiously, pay extra attention to signs and drive defensively, Carney said.
MoDOT recommends motorists stay a safe distance -- at least 100 feet -- away from trucks, which are typically traveling 25 to 30 miles per hour, Byrge said.
But Byrge, who has been working for MoDOT for 15 years, thinks he has the best snow removal route -- the city route in Sikeston.
"It helps because there are all these city lights," Byrge said.
Byrge is appreciative of the city's brightness, especially after being assigned to the interstate during a snow storm about three or four years ago.
"It was snowing so hard I couldn't tell where I was," Byrge recalled. "... You couldn't see. It was dangerous."
As for what the weather will be like this winter, Byrge said he watches The Weather Channel all the time.
"They keep saying there will be a mild winter for our area," Byrge said. "I guess we'll see once March gets here."