UNION COUNTY — Last Thursday the sun was shining bright, the weather was mild, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky so it was the perfect day to start getting ready for winter.
While most people wouldn’t even be thinking about winter and the snow and ice it could bring on such a day, the personnel of the Union County office of the SC Department of Transportation was not only thinking about winter weather they were using the good weather to get ready for bad weather.
“We don’t wait until the day of a storm to get our equipment out,” Assistant Resident Maintenance Engineer Jason Childers said. “We use a day like this to inspect our equipment, fix what we can, and provide good training for new people. We team them up with more experienced personnel. Also, if there’s new equipment, this helps everyone get more familiar with it.”
While most people would only expect to see a snowplow out on the road when there’s snow and ice to be cleared away, the snowplows of the SCDOT’s Union County office took to the road that day even there was not a flake of snow or a patch of ice to be found on any local road. The snowplows and other SCDOT equipment were out of the road, however, in order to determine if there was fully operational. They were also deployed to help familiarize SCDOT personnel with the roads they would be clearing.
“On a pretty day like this we run those make sure if something is needed we know what it is and get it ordered and operational before the snow and ice gets here,” Childers said. “We also send them out to get our personnel familiar with the roads and any obstacles that might be out there like manhole covers and medians.”
Childers said that in the event winter brings with it snow and ice that need to be cleared from the roads, the roads in Union County will be cleared according to the following priority levels:
• First Priority Routes — US 176 (94.46 lane miles).
• Second Priority Routes — SC 9, SC 18, SC 49, SC 72/121, SC 105, SC 114, SC 215, and SC 49.
• Third Priority Routes — All remaining SCDOT maintained roads (All Secondary Routes).
Order Of Operations
Childers said the SCDOT takes the following steps to, first, mitigate any accumulation of snow and ice; second, clear the roads; and, third, keep them cleared:
1. Pretreat with salt brine (US 176 and SC Priority Routes).
2. Plow and re-cover with salt brine and straight salt (US 176, SC Priority Routes, and Secondary Routes).
3. Plow and re-treat with calcium chloride, if needed.
Childers said the SCDOT has a total of 950 tons of salt, 5,000 gallons of calcium chloride, 18,000 gallons of salt brine, and 200 tons of sand stored, either at the SCDOT Maintenance office on US 176 or at a temporary storage site on SC 72.
Brine, Childers said, is produced from the mixing of salt and water with 2.5 pounds of salt per gallon of water.
Personnel And Equipment
Childers said the Union County SCDOT Maintenance Office has 10 trucks, 10 plows, eight sanders, six brine units, and two motor graders.
To man those machines, there are a total of 38 maintenance personnel with 19 assigned to the day shift and 19 to the night shift, all of whom are on call, especially in the event of winter weather.
Childers said Union County is designated an “assisting county” by the SCDOT which means his office could send four trucks with plows, sanders, and personnel to Cherokee County for four days and four nights to assist in removing snow and ice from I-85.
Childers said that US 176 will be the priority of the local office and that it’s manpower, equipment, and materials would be focused on it until it is cleared unless required to help Cherokee County.
For more information about the SCDOT and its plans in the event of severe winter weather contact the Union County Maintenance Office at 864-427-3575.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.