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TDOT ready to tackle winter weather

Posted on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 4:11 pm

A highway department truck based out of Lynchburg makes sure the streets are prepared for winter weather. (MCN Photo)

A highway department truck based out of Lynchburg makes sure the streets are prepared for winter weather. (MCN Photo)

LYNCHBURG – The Tennessee Department of Transportation is stocked and ready to clear roadways of ice and snow this season.

Over the last several weeks, salt supplies have been replenished in all 95 counties, and crews have readied snow plows and brine trucks for the winter season.

“Tennessee often sees the bulk of its winter weather in January and February,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said. “Our salt bins are fully stocked and we have more than a thousand employees ready to mobilize in the event of inclement weather.”

Salt is in short supply across the nation after last year’s severe winter. This year, TDOT’s salt shipments are coming from South America. While all of TDOT’s 132 salt bins have been filled to capacity, new orders may take some time to arrive. In anticipation of possible delays in future salt shipments, TDOT personnel will make every effort to conserve salt supplies. TDOT’s fleet of salt and brine trucks have been calibrated to disperse only the correct amount of salt or salt brine, which will prevent unnecessary overuse of these supplies. TDOT can also use chemical additives such as calcium chloride to stretch salt supplies.

TDOT’s statewide 2014/2015 winter weather budget is $19.6 million and includes salt, salt brine, overtime for employees and equipment maintenance. The department has a total of three salt vendors to refill salt bins in all 95 Tennessee counties.

TDOT currently has more than 200,000 tons of salt and more than 2 million gallons of salt brine ready for use. Salt brine is a salt/water mixture used as a pre-treatment for roads prior to a winter storm or to melt snow on roadways when temperatures are hovering around the freezing mark. Salt is applied to roads once snow has started to accumulate.

When snow hits Tennessee, TDOT ice and snow removal teams focus first on clearing interstates and heavily traveled state routes and will specifically target areas vulnerable to freezing, such as hills, curves, ramps, bridges and interchanges. During prolonged weather events, crews may have to clear roadways repeatedly.

TDOT has a number of tools available to keep motorists informed about travel conditions including the TDOT SmartWay website (www.tn.gov/tdot/tdotsmartway) and the 5 1 1 motorist information line. You can also receive traffic alerts via TDOT’s multiple Twitter feeds, including statewide traffic tweets @TN511 or any of TDOT’s other Twitter pages. Smartphone users can download TDOT’s new SmartWay web application at www.TNsmartWay.com/Traffic to access TDOT’s live streaming SmartWay cameras, dynamic message signs, incidents, construction, and road conditions on interstates and state routes.

Be prepared during winter weather 

Winters in Tennessee can be very unpredictable. That’s why the Tennessee Department of Health urges everyone to be prepared for dangerous weather, the risk of hypothermia and other winter health concerns.

“Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, just a few degrees less than the normal 98.6 degrees F,” said TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “Symptoms of hypothermia include being confused, sleepy, apathetic and delirious. Hypothermia can also cause a person to slip into a coma, causing the heart and respiratory system to fail.”

The Tennessee Department of Health suggests dressing in layers, changing out of wet clothes, limiting time outdoors and avoiding alcohol. Adopting a “buddy” system is also recommended so friends can check on one another often to look for signs of cold weather health problems.

It’s also important to be prepared for dangerous weather conditions when driving. These tips can help keep you and your family safe:

• Keep at least a half-tank of gas in your vehicle at all times and be sure you have an emergency kit in the vehicle. This should include candles and matches, a blanket, food such as energy bars and water, a small shovel, flashlight with fresh batteries, first aid supplies, a charger for your cell phone, ice scraper, gloves and extra clothing.

• Before traveling, have a mechanic inspect your vehicle to ensure it is road-worthy for winter. This should include a check of the battery, anti-freeze and tires. Also ask for a check of the exhaust system; a leaky exhaust system could cause dangerous carbon monoxide to enter the passenger compartment.

• Always tell someone your travel route and when you will arrive and return. If you don’t have to drive, stay home or use public transportation.

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