First winter storm: Road conditions

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. – Between the end of the rain and the beginning of the snow, road crews have a small window to treat the roads to make them safe for drivers.

St. Joseph County, Indiana and the Indiana Toll Road:
Road crews are just waiting for the right time to begin pre-treating the roads. Because of the rain, they have to treat the roads at just the right time.

"For a typical storm, what often times will happen is before it snows we'll put down a pre-treat on the road, a brine, a saltwater mixture and that works as a pre-treat. But with this situation it's going to be raining and then switching to snow. A lot of that wouldn't work because we'll pre treat and then it'll just wash it away,” said Matt Deitchley of INDOT.

Because crews can't pre-treat the roads, they have to wait for the right time-just as the rain changes to snow-before they can start spreading salt.

With the timing so up in the air, the trucks have to be ready to go at any time.

"Today we're kind of putting the finishing touches on that-putting our salt hopers on the back of our trucks making sure our blades are on all the trucks and ready to go. But a lot of that work we did yesterday because we had anticipated the snow obviously hitting today,” said Deitchley.

Both INDOT and Toll Road officials say they have crews on the roads patrolling to judge when the salt trucks need to hit the road. They're also monitoring the forecast and storm as it makes its way east.

Elkhart, Indiana:
In Elkhart, the street department is using the down time before the snow begins to make sure they are ready by loading materials, checking and double checking their rigs.

They hope the weather continues to cooperate.

"We'll pre-treat the road tonight after it kind of slacks off raining before it changes to snow and gets really cold,” said Marty Morgan, City of Elkhart Street Commissioner.

But even if they can do that, crews know what they are in for.

"It's going to be ugly,” said Rudell Wright, 12 year street department veteran.

Wright has been plowing streets for more than a decade. He is ready for his 12 hour shift on Friday.

"I know that we are going to have our hands full tomorrow,” said Wright.

The truck drivers are asking for a little help and courtesy.

"I tell people, it's not as easy as you think it is. And we ask the citizens that when you see us out, respect us, give us plenty of working room and you know our main goal is to make sure that you guys get to your destination,” said Wright.

Indiana State Police Offers Winter Driving Tips

Be prepared:

  • Before traveling, check the forecast and let someone know your travel route.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full.
  • Carry a winter driving kit that should include blankets, flashlight, extra batteries, a brightly colored cloth, sand (or cat litter), shovel, candle, matches, non-perishable high calorie food, first aid kit, and jumper cables.
  • Have a cell phone and charger cord available.
  • Slow down on snow/ice covered roads.
  • Allow extra time to arrive at your destination.
  • Clear all vehicle windows of ice and snow. Remove snow from hood, roof, and lights.
  • Use extra caution when driving across bridges, underpasses, shaded areas and intersections where ice is slow to melt.
  • Avoid abrupt stops and starts. Slow down gradually.

Should you become stranded:

  • Don’t leave your car. It’s the best protection you have.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to your antenna.
  • Roll down your window a small amount to allow fresh air in your vehicle.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe free of blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Don’t panic. An idling car uses approximately one gallon of gas per hour.

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