By Brandi Underwood
OAK HILL —
While the weather is still mild and sunny right now, the West Virginia Division of Highways is already preparing for the inclement winter weather around the corner. This week, snow removal equipment is being tested, inventory is being compiled and practice “dry runs” are in motion.
“In October of every year we do what we call a ‘dry run.’ It lets us know if everything is working properly. We put all of our plows and spreaders on and we get them calibrated to release the right amount of material on the road,” said Fayette County Highway Administrator Danny Hypes.
“Basically, the purpose of the dry runs is to let us know if all of our snow-maintenance equipment is working well,” said Hypes.
Statewide, West Virginia DOH works to develop Snow Removal and Ice Control (SRIC) strategies, which are tailored to the particular conditions affecting each district. Hypes said the Fayette County district deals with a lot of ice in valley areas and deep snow on the east side of the county, especially in the area of Lookout.
The Fayette County DOH has 60 employees and 20 trucks to maintain roughly 880 miles of county roads, and 11 employees and five trucks to maintain U.S. 19, Hypes said.
Between the three county offices — Falls View, Lookout and Oak Hill — current inventory includes more than 4,000 tons of salt, 18,000 gallons of salt brine and 500 tons of a special salt and gravel mixture, known as SRIC mix, which serves a dual purpose of lowering the melting point of ice and providing traction for vehicles.
During dry runs, DOH trucks dispense snow-maintenance material on their premises to measure how much salt or SRIC mix is being released from their spreaders. From their measurements they can determine whether the machines need to be recalibrated.
“We don’t want too much (material), but we don’t want to underestimate what we’re putting on the road either,” Hypes said. “The main thing is to keep travel and the public safe.”
“We’ve been in touch with the NOAA Weather Service talking with them, and rumor has it with the Farmer’s Almanac that a couple big snows are on the way,” Hype said. “We’re crossing our fingers and hoping it’s not.”
However, if this year is anything like 2012, snow showers in a few weeks wouldn’t come as a surprise. If that is the case, Hypes assures residents that the Fayette County DOH is prepared, just as they were last year for Superstorm Sandy.
All the storage buildings across the county are full and their stockpiles are at the ready, explained Hypes.
“We’ve got an abundance of salt and gravel and we’re ready to go,” Hypes said. “We’ll be ready to get out there and hit the roads before they start getting slick.”
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