Winter is coming.
Love it or hate it, in northwestern Pennsylvania cold weather and accompanying snow and ice are almost guaranteed to hover over more than a third of the calendar each year.
As fall wanes, it might be wise to keep that simple climatological fact in mind, and PennDOT District 1, which covers Warren and Forest counties, is doing just that.
Photo by Jacob Perryman
Ready for winter
PennDOT District 1, which covers Forest and Warren counties, is prepping for winter weather. Trucks are being outfitted with plows and spreaders in anticipation of winter storms.
According to Highway Foreman Butch Miller, the district is receiving and stockpiling materials, filling brine tanks and outfitting trucks in anticipation of winter storms.
"We have ample supplies (of materials) in all the stock areas. We're not full yet, but we're getting there," Miller said. "We should have the trucks all ready soon."
As PennDOT stockpiles materials, it also fill storage tanks with brine created and processed on-site at its garage in Starbrick. The brine is mixed with other de-icing and traction materials and spread on roadways to help stimulate snow and ice melt.
As for the trucks, Miller said approximately 50 percent of the district's trucks have been converted for winter and he anticipates all of them being converted by early November.
That means 12-foot front and 10-foot wing plows will be attached. The wings, when extended, project an extra three feet, creating approximately 15 feet of plow surface.
It also means spreader systems will be hooked up and connected to on-board computer systems. The computer systems regulate the amount and mix of materials being put on the roads and can relay that information to a database after runs allowing PennDOT to keep an accurate record of materials used.
"The technology we have now is a big improvement," Miller said. "It used to be, you would just crank it (the spreader) wide open and you had no way of telling what you put down."
According to Miller, people can expect to see the trucks making "dry" runs for testing in the near future.
Once winter weather arrives, PennDOT can coordinate with an Oil City-based dispatch and monitoring center so it know what the winds are bringing this way. PennDOT also maintains a relationship with Warren-based state police and the 911 center to keep up to date.
Miller said people can expect to see trucks on an approximately two-hour log loop when plowing.
"Each truck has an assigned route," Miller said. "We have the mileage figured so each route takes about two hours."
Miller pointed out a few things drivers should keep in mind when traveling on snowy roadways.
"The biggest thing is, if you see a plow truck, give them room and be patient," Miller said. "Their top speed is only 18 to 22 miles per hour. If you're leaving for work, give yourself an extra 15 minutes. If it's snowing like a son of a gun, we're not going to be putting a whole lot of materials out because we're just going to plow it up anyway."
According to Miller, Route 6, with its four traffic lanes, presents a unique situation around the county. He said in order to plow the route, PennDOT utilizes a line of three plow trucks in a staggered formation "rolling" snow between each other and onto the road's shoulder.
"You're not going to get around them, so just get in line and be patient," Miller said. "Give the trucks room, be patient and give yourself time."