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Wet pavement hinders road preparations

Wet pavement hinders road preparations

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 8:55 pm
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

 By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter From a road engineer’s perspective, this judgment about sleet, ice and snow: “An ice storm is the worst to deal with.” The speaker, Bill Hazlerig of District 42, Tennessee Depart-ment of Transportation, should know a thing or two about weather and roads. “I’ve been doing this quite a while,” said the operations supervisor for road maintenance. He and Gary Lofton, superintendent of the Obion County Highway Department, shared their views about winter weather Tuesday with The Messenger. Hazlerig Obion County is in TDOT District 42, which also includes Dyer, Lake and Gibson counties. “In West Tennessee, we have about 170 trucks,” Hazlerig said. “Every county has a (state) road grader. Normally — if there is such a thing in dealing with ice — if this storm had come in and we had a dry pavement, we would have performed what we call a ‘brine application.’ Brine is a mixture of water and salt. But with the pavements wet, we couldn’t do that. What we had to do was sit back and wait until it comes and then try to deal with it.” Meteorologists may say the storm’s going to hit a certain area at 3 p.m., “but that doesn’t mean it’ll be (on time); it may hit at 6 p.m.,” he said And that’s what happened Monday “in about five minutes,” he said. “It changed from rain to ice,” Hazlerig said. “It overwhelms you in five minutes. In a situation like this, it appears we’re not on top of it, but actually we were out all night in that (Northwest Tennessee) area.” TDOT does not spread rock; it uses salt. Hazlerig said crews worked all day Tuesday spreading salt. Plans were to work until dark and start again today. Each district has state highway crews, two in each county, on stand-by. District 42 is headquartered in Newbern. There are satellite facilities in each county. The TDOT facility in Obion County is located in Troy. Mike Hicks is manager. Hazlerig said TDOT’s priorities in clearing roads are: • Interstate highways • Federal routes such as U.S. Highways 51 and 45. • Secondary routes, those designated by three-digit numbers. • State parks route. “At Air Park Inn at Reelfoot Lake, we take care of the airport and the terminal building,” he said. This morning, Hazlerig said state crews were out and about and on the job. “We had a few bridges in Weakley, Obion and Dyer that we had to do some salting on, but hopefully everything is on its way to improving. According to what I’ve been told, we are in pretty good shape,” he said. Lofton Lofton said he had all 31 of his highway personnel on the job at daylight Monday. “They were going wide open. We have three road graders and 12 snow plows,” he said. “We have 730 miles of county roads. We figure it’ll take two days to work them. We run the graders and we are spreading cinders. We start on main routes and work our way down to secondary routes. In places, the ice was tough. Some places, it’s coming off good. Other places, not so good; one place I measured this morning had two inches of ice.” A load of cinders weighs about 18 tons. By 3 p.m. Monday, Lofton’s crews had spread 10 or 12 truck loads “on hills and at intersections.” Lofton said this is the first time since Jan. 1, 2001, that this area has had this much ice. Early today, he told The Messenger his crews are back on the job. “We’ve got graders going and snow plows going and spreader trucks with cinders,” he said. “We got back on it at daylight today. It’ll probably take the rest of the week to get some roads cleared. The west side of the county is the worst hit.” Published in The Messenger 12.17.08

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