North Carolina is home not only to a diverse landscape, but also diverse weather. While people living in the mountains are accustomed to snowfall, from time to time residents of our beaches awake to a blanket of snow on the ground. That's why N.C. Department of Transportation maintenance crews across the state take steps to prepare to respond to snow and ice ahead of winter weather.
Each of the state's 100 counties has an NCDOT maintenance office that is responsible for clearing the state-maintained roads in that county. These crews work well in advance of when they normally receive winter precipitation to make sure their salt supplies are topped off and their equipment is calibrated and in good working order. They also conduct what we call "dry runs," which are like practice sessions. This allows crews to drive their routes to get familiar with them before they're covered in snow and ice.
When winter weather is on the horizon, the county maintenance engineer and road supervisor closely monitor the forecast - ready to take appropriate action to make sure roads and bridges are safe and clear for motorists.
The anti-icing program is NCDOT's first defense against winter weather. Pre-treating roads with a salt and water mixture called brine helps crews, because it sticks to the roads and keeps ice from bonding to the pavement during the first few hours of the storm.
NCDOT operates brine production plants in county maintenance yards in each of its 14 highway divisions, where crews have the capability to make salt brine and load it onto trucks, which spray it onto the roadway. The department has the capacity to store 965,000 gallons of brine statewide for use when needed.
If the precipitation is snow, NCDOT crews begin plowing the roads once enough has accumulated on the roadways. Crews use salt to treat ice on the roads. The department has about 150,000 tons of salt in storage statewide. In a typical winter, we use between 50,000 and 60,000 tons of salt.
NCDOT also has a diverse array of equipment to dispense the salt and remove snow and ice from the roads. It includes more than 2,500 trucks equipped with plows and spreaders, 632 front-end loaders and backhoes, 650 motor graders and five snow blowers. NCDOT also outfits pick-up trucks with snowplows to clear less traveled roads. About 6,000 employees are available to operate this equipment and assist with winter weather response efforts.
The department prioritizes which roads are cleared first, focusing on interstates and four-lane divided primary routes that are essential to the movement of intrastate and regional traffic. NCDOT then works to clear lower-volume primary roads, high-volume secondary roads, lower-volume secondary roads and then subdivision streets.
To learn more about NCDOT's efforts before, during and after a winter storm, watch the video below. You can also follow the department on the web, Facebook and Twitter for the latest travel information.