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Press Releases

When Snow or Ice is Predicted, MCDOT Springs into Action

For Immediate Release: Monday, November 20, 2017

County snow fighters begin their job well before snow is predicted to fall. Highway Services staff track weather reports days in advance to determine if the MCDOT Storm Operations Center should be activated and when to do so. Snow plow crews and truck mechanics at each depot are called to report in advance of a storm and may begin pretreating major roads with salt brine, a solution of salt and water, depending on conditions. Salt brine prevents ice and frost from forming on pavement and makes snow removal easier. The use of salt brine also reduces the amount of salt needed to treat pavement following a snowfall.

At the start of a storm, crews patrol to monitor road conditions. When snow or freezing precipitation begins to cover the roads, crews spread salt on emergency and primary routes. Throughout a snow storm, the County spreads abrasives on hills, at intersections, and on roads around schools.

Plows are ineffective until snowfall accumulations reach three inches. At that point, Highway Services starts plowing operations and continues salting, focusing on main roads and transit routes. During the snowfall, about 1,000 lane miles of main roads are kept in “bare pavement” condition. This ensures that every County resident is within one-half mile of a cleared road and can be reached by emergency equipment. It also means that when residents leave their neighborhoods, the main roads are ready to handle traffic.

Once the snow stops falling and major roads are clear, crews turn their attention to removing snow from more than 4,300 miles of neighborhood streets. Their goal is to make these streets passable – not clear them to bare pavement. Crews eat and sleep at the depots and do not go home until snow removal operations are completed.

MCDOT has 200 Highway Services employees and 175 pieces of equipment to handle snow operations. If more resources are needed, contractors can be called upon immediately to provide hundreds of pieces of additional equipment and plow operators. 

During a snowstorm, get the latest updates by visiting the County's Snow Portal.

Release ID: 17-241
Media Contact: Esther Bowring 240-777-7170