First snowfall means season of around-the-clock road clearing is officially here

NOW: First snowfall means season of around-the-clock road clearing is officially here

NILES, Mich.-- For Niles resident Dawn Brown Simmons, it takes a certain Midwest charm to appreciate the cold weather this time of year.

"I love Michigan, you know," she said. "You have to be a certain type of person to live here. You have to think that it’s beautiful, and enjoy the serene-ness of it all, the frozen-ness of it all. And so, when it comes down, you just got to smile and grin and go with it."

Whether we like it or not, winter weather is here, which means salt truck and snowplow drivers behind their work clearing the roads around the clock.

Although the snowfall in Southwest Michigan is heavy, the temperature is staying high enough for the roads to be cleared easily.

For example, 10 inches of snow at 32 degrees is much easier to clear than one inch of snow in negative degree weather.

Salt, for the most part, is doing the trick.

A spokesperson with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Nick Schirripa, said the amount of the salt they buy depends on the average amount they've used over the previous 5 years.

He said MDOT currently has 30,000 tons on hand, but they have 36,000 tons available on backorder.

"The warmer it stays, the more effective our salt is," he said. "And really, all salt does is help prevent that bond. It helps prevent snow and ice and slush from bonding to the pavement. So, the warmer it stays, the less salt we have to use to begin with, and as it cools, a little bit, salt is more effective."

Schirripa said salt actually becomes counterproductive when it cools down to about 10 degrees.

"It stops being really effective at about 20 degrees, and really starts getting counter-effective. It starts being a problem at about 12-10-13 degrees or around there," he said. "Because what happens is, we put the salt down, and it's so cold, that as it melts the snow and ice, it just refreezes faster than we can get back to remove it off the road."

Schirripa said he cannot sing the praises of the salt truck and snowplow drivers enough, saying they should wear capes since they are modern day superheroes.

Their hard work is not going unnoticed by the people of Southwest Michigan, either.

"As a Michigander growing up here in the area, the weather has been tons worse than it has these last couple days, so I'm actually really happy to see it come down and not be so bad. The road crews have done really well keeping it salted and plowed and it's been drivable," Simmons said.

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