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Ice tougher to clear than snow

LAKE AREA – Thorn Township Trustee Dale Factor would far rather see snow on the roads than ice.

“Most of the time we can just plow snow,” he said, but ice storms are far more dangerous and costly for road crews. Tuesday evening he was preparing for what could be a harsh ice storm overnight followed by snowfall Wednesday. He said the township must treat icy roads with gravel and kid gloves.

“Ice is a whole different animal,” Factor said. The township can’t really pre-treat the roads with salt brine – a method ODOT finds effective when preparing for snowstorms-because freezing rain will simply wash the ice off the surface. Ice is also more dangerous for the plows because it’s tougher fro drivers to see the ice and even the massive snowplows will easily slide on icy asphalt. As of Tuesday afternoon, Thorn Township’s roads were fairly clear, but Factor had no idea what to expect Wednesday morning. “It’ll be touchy,” he said.

“ I’d rather have two feet of snow than ice,” said Walnut Township Road Supervisor and Liberty Township Trustee Randy Kemmerer. “With ice, we don’t know what’s going to happen.” He said early Tuesday morning he could barely keep his own four by four truck on the road with all the ice and he wasn’t looking forward to Wednesday morning. He planned to be on the roads by 4 a.m. There’s the added danger, Kemmerer said, that ice can bring down power lines.

ODOT district 5 Deputy Director

Joe Rutherford said freezing rain could indeed wash saltwater brine from the roads, but it’s still ODOT’s policy to pretreat highways because there’s a better chance that the brine will prevent ice from bonding to the pavement. “The risk is if you don’t pre-treat,” he said. Should the ice bond to the highway, Rutherford said warmth or sunshine are the only means to get rid of it, and we haven’t experienced much of either. “You have to adopt a preventative strategy,” he said. The goal is to make sure there’s salt in the pavement before the ice storm hits.

“Snow can be more of a reactive thing,” Rutherford said. Crews can respond to snowfall whereby they must anticipate ice. “The word ‘ice’ puts fear into transportation officials everywhere,” he said. Large plow vehicles don’t intimidate ice. “It doesn’t matter what you’re driving,” Rutherford said. “It’s difficult to control any vehicle on ice.”

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