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Small storms cause headaches for PennDOT

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 04 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 06 2013 08:34:36 AM CST

Yet another round of light snow is on the way, but believe it or not, these small snowfalls can be a bigger headache for road crews than the big ones.

Yet another round of light snow is on the way, but believe it or not, these small snowfalls can be a bigger headache for road crews than the big ones.

At the Coopersburg public works garage, the plows are sitting idle. There'sjust not enough snow.

"Anything less than two inches, we generally try not to plow," said Coopersburg streets superintendent Dennis Nace.

Because of that, crews are having to rely on chemicals alone. But even these fleeting flurries can be costly for road crews.

"These smaller snowstorms really cost us more money than some of bigger ones," said Nace.

That's because unlike bigger storms, which just require a plow and salt, crews have to continually re-apply chemicals to prevent black ice from forming.

"We have to basically have a full compliment come out, just like we do for a major snowstorm," said PennDOT spokesman Ron Young.

"They expect roads to be black all the time, which means that we have to spread more salt and cinders," said Nace.

And if you think these small storms are safer to drive in, the answer is, yes and no. Drivers tend go faster when the flakes aren't as deep.

"This past weekend, with the events that motorists weren't slowing down," said Young, adding that a sudden snow burst last week on Interstate 80 led to multiple wrecks.

Nace agreed.

"The bigger snows, I think, scare the people a little bit more, cause them to slow up, where the smaller ones like this, they don't understand," he said. "They don't take black ice into consideration."

The good news for road crews is, we had such a warm winter last year that most places still have salt left over.