Plow drivers prepare for wintry weather


During the months of September and October, the West Virginia Division of Highways prepares themselves for the winter.

They have ‘dry run’ days, where plow drivers will drive their route and get their plow truck ready for the upcoming winter season. 

Earl Gaskins, Division of Highways District 4 Maintenance Assistant, said their trucks and their drivers need to be well-prepared before the season.

He said a lot of things are done during these ‘dry runs’ including, “make sure everything is working properly, calibrate all the machines, have the truck drivers drive their routes, identify any hazards that maybe there that they can’t see when there’s snow on the ground, locate turn around areas and just basically make sure everything is working properly and everybody’s on the same page. And we also calibrate the machine. There’s a particular rate that we spread the salt and we have to make sure that machine is putting out that calibrated rate.”

By doing these dry runs before the winter weather moves in, it makes the season easier when the snow does finally arrive. Once icy or snowy weather is predicted to hit, the WV Division of Highways has to react quickly. Gaskins said, “We don’t want to be repairing equipment before we go out on the road.”

A city snowplow helps clear roads north of downtown Flagstaff, Ariz., Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. A powerful storm making its way east from California is threatening major disruptions during the year’s busiest travel weekend, as forecasters warned that intensifying snow and ice could thwart millions across the country hoping to get home after Thanksgiving. The storm has already killed at least one person and shut down highways in the western U.S., stranding drivers in California and prompting authorities in Arizona to plead with travelers to wait out the weather before attempting to travel. (Cody Bashore/Arizona Daily Sun via AP)

Typically, across the lowlands of north-central West Virginia, the first snow-fall occurs sometime during the month of November and in the higher elevations, snow could fall as early as October. 

Gaskins said they keep up with the weather forecasts across the state. “Once the weather, the temperature drops below 35 degrees or we see snow imminent in the future, then we’ll get crews out here and get them on the road.”

The Division of Highways will prepare the roads before snow or ice even hits. District 4 plow driver Allen Flowers said, “We have salt and a brine water that will pre-treat well and we have a brine that we make a slurry with the salt that helps break up the ice.” 

So they prepare the roads before the snow hits and then really get to work while the snow is coming down.

Gaskins said each district within the Division of Highways each have a priority route that they go by.

He added, “Our primary goal is getting the priority roads taken care of first, which is your main route in the county. Once they have been completed, and they’re safe to travel on, all the snow is removed – we move on to the secondary roads and then so on down the list.  So, there is a method to the madness and we do follow our procedure throughout every storm.” 

Winter 2019-2020 was a mild one and did not see much snow. But plow drivers are prepared for this season.

“We always plan for the worst-case scenario, we’re ready whether it does hit. We have material on stock, we have salt and we stock-pile it on all of our facilities,” concluded Gaskins.

To see the StormTracker 12 2020 Winter Weather Special in its entirety, click here.

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