SWEETWATER COUNTY – While local residents are hoping for some of Wyoming’s best weather this winter season, Wyoming Department of Transportation officials are preparing for some of its worst.
WYDOT continues to do its best to protect motorists on Wyoming’s highways. To operate snow plows and snow blowers, WYDOT always attempts to add to its winter staff. Every season, temporary operators join WYDOT crews to supplement permanent maintenance teams.
Winter Maintenance Tool Kit
In addition to manpower and plowing, WYDOT utilizes several different chemical mixtures and the traditional sand/salt mix to maintain safe road conditions. WYDOT uses several mixtures on Wyoming roads–both before and after snow storms– such as salt sand, Apex and ice slicer.
These mixtures are stockpiled at WYDOT’s maintenance stations in preparation for winter. When snowfall can be predicted, some of these chemicals are applied to roads before the storm to help keep snowpack from accumulating, and to assist with the removal of snow after the storm. Others are used continuously, to help alleviate snowpack and icy conditions.
Wyoming’s notorious winters are marked by some of the most severe durations of snowfall, freezing rain and blowing snow. With a high rate of snowfall and some of the worst blowing snow conditions in the United States, WYDOT has to reach deep into its tool bag to maintain safer roads and prevent icy conditions.Salt, or sodium chloride, is the most common and cheapest tool across the nation for fighting ice.
However, Wyoming’s brutal temperatures and whipping winds can sometimes render salt inadequate, putting Wyoming motorists at risk of hitting ice rinks without a pair of skates. Salt does have an important place in ice removal. Using salt on roads lowers the temperature at which ice will melt, therefore preventing the formation of ice at lower temperatures.
However, when temperatures drop below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, salt becomes ineffective. During winter, pavement freezes, forming a bond with ice and snow. Eliminating that bond helps WYDOT maintenance crews plow off excess moisture, clearing roads faster and providing safer conditions.
However, in the past, freezing temperatures have thwarted salts ability to melt the ice off roads, causing crews to spend weeks chipping up ice with plows to clear roadways. Nowadays, public works departments and transportation departments, as well as WYDOT, are taking a more proactive approach to address Wyoming’s notorious dipping temperatures and a brutal wind chill.
Snow Plan Priority
When winter storms persist, WYDOT relies on their plan of attack. With limited resources, priorities must be made.
A snow removal plan goes into action, creating a prioritized list of routes based on traffic counts. This plan is divided into four levels: High volume, medium volume, low volume and closed. The snow plan is available on the WYDOT website at, http://www.dot.state.wy.us/wydot/travel/winter/snow_plow_priority_plan.
High volume roads are plowed up to 24 hours a day and consist of interstates and principal urban routes, such as Interstate 80. Medium volume routes are plowed to keep them passable and reasonably safe and are a secondary priority to high volume routes. Low volume routes are only serviced after high volume and medium volume roads have been cleared, and are only plowed during daylight hours.
Closed refer to seasonally closed roads, where the cost of keeping them clear outweighs their use.However, exceptions to the plan are made for school bus routes, which are plowed twice a day regardless of their priority.The Department of Transportation would like to remind all drivers to obey all advisories and closures, lower your speed in adverse weather conditions and always buckle your seatbelt. WYDOT also encourages residents and travelers to access road and travel information through their Web site, http://www.wyoroad.info, for updates and closures.