Valley road crews gird for potential ‘Frankenstorm’
By Ashley Luthern
As meteorologists eye Hurricane Sandy and the potential “Frankenstorm,” the Ohio Department of Transportation says crews are ready for snow or severe weather conditions.
ODOT District 4 had its annual winter open house Friday at its Trumbull County garage in Cortland, where it unveiled plows outfitted with amber, white and green lights to increase visibility in snow.
Weather experts have said Hurricane Sandy is changing quickly and that if the hurricane combines with a winter storm from the west and cold air coming from Canada, it could create a storm with possible snow as early as Sunday, but forecasters don’t expect much accumulation.
“We are prepared for anything: snow, heavy winds that knock trees onto the road or 8 inches of rain,” said Justin Chesnic, ODOT District 4 spokesman.
ODOT has 30 snow-and-ice removal vehicles in Trumbull County and 20 in Mahoning County, he said.
About one-third of the state’s roughly 1,650 snowplows have the new green lights, including some in the Mahoning Valley, which studies suggest are more easily detected than yellow lights. The rest of the fleet should be outfitted by next winter, Chesnic said.
Red and blue lights remain reserved for law enforcement and emergency vehicles.
The salt bins are full with about 21,000 tons in Trumbull and 25,000 tons in Mahoning. Last winter, the two counties used a total of 20,471 tons of salt and 308,190 gallons of salt brine.
ODOT District 4 paid $37.13 per ton this year, compared with about $55 per ton last year, said Dave Ray, district highway management administrator.
“It’s a big deal because we can take those funds and reinvest them. They’re operating funds, and we can pay for more asphalt and put that money into roads,” he said.
It also helps that a large stockpile of salt was left over from last year’s mild winter, Ray said.
“We prefer a winter like last year, but we’re getting ready for our normal winter,” he said.
ODOT also is looking ahead to next winter, when it will have a new $100,000 tow plow that can clear and salt two lanes of road at once.
Chesnic said that plow primarily will be used on state Route 11 in Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
District 4 includes Ashtabula, Mahoning, Portage, Stark, Summit and Trumbull counties and maintains the second-highest number of lane miles and receives the second-highest average amount of snowfall per winter of all 12 districts in Ohio.