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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It takes two Public Works drivers at full strength to pull the rubber bungee cord across the rear tire of a salt truck. The cord is the final step in the installation of chains on the big trucks ahead of Thursday morning’s storm.
“Ice is the worst possible situation,” says Pittsburgh Public Works Director Mike Gable. “I’d rather have snow over anything.”
PennDOT District 11 Assistant Executive for Maintenance Angelo Pampena agrees.
“Freezing rain is more challenging because motorists can’t see it, it’s that black ice effect,” he said.
So PennDOT had its salt brine trucks spraying down the roads, forming a white glaze on the surface.
Pampena says, “The idea is we can get residual salt there, so when that precipitation falls and hits the roadway, there’s going to be some salt which prevents it from bonding.”
PennDOT’s road warriors will be in their trucks and dropping salt as soon as the first frozen precipitation falls.
Pittsburgh is in the midst of a transition to a high-tech system, and currently has some of its trucks in Somerset County being retrofitted.
Gable says, “We expect four to five trucks being down at the vendor, putting the new GPS information in.”
There are also a number of trucks in for maintenance, but he expects the remaining 80-plus trucks will be able to keep up with the storm.
The snow plow tracker website is under repair so the new upgraded website will launch in January.
Road crews spent most of the day doing last-minute maintenance checks on the trucks and fitting them with chains.
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Over in Cranberry Township, the preps are underway just the same. Township Public Works Director Jason Dailey was talking about salt brine.
Dailey’s crews spent Wednesday spreading the clear mixture made with salt all over the roads.
“Our goal is really to prevent that bonding that’s going to take place with an icy road,” said Dailey. “So we’re trying to put a barrier layer between the road and what’s falling from the sky.”
KDKA’s David Highfield Reports:
You could even see a white residue left behind Wednesday evening on some streets in Cranberry, such as North Boundary Road.
Of course, road crews across the area have plans to be out Thursday morning given the wintry mix forecast. But because of some impressive technology, Cranberry Township Public Works is also able to watch conditions from inside.
At the Cranberry Traffic Operations Center, there’s a wall of monitors which allows them to see what’s happening across the township. They can monitor what’s going on with cameras at intersections and an interactive map with traffic movement charted in real time.
It’s exactly when the precipitation moves in that has PennDOT in Allegheny County concerned.
“The most difficult thing is timing,” said Pampena. “So if it comes right at rush hour, our trucks are going to be stuck in the same traffic that we’re all in.”
Gable is hoping drivers will adjust their schedules.
“I really encourage the public to rethink when they need to get to work or to school, if they give us a few extra hours, it will give us a chance to get the material down,” he said.
And, Zach Poe, at Ace Hardware in Green Tree, says you might want to consider hitting your driveway or sidewalk with a little salt tonight.
“Pre-salting is going to help the snow and ice not stick. So you don’t have a black ice situation. Especially if you have to get up and work in the morning, you’ll be happy to see most of it’s probably melted, so you’re not gonna slip,” Poe says.
KDKA’s Brenda Waters Reports:
If you do have to head out early in the morning, AAA has some tips for safe driving in winter weather.
“At least when it comes to snow you can take steps such as having snow tires, or even having a bigger vehicle. Those steps really help when it comes to snow, but when it comes to ice, not so much,” said AAA spokesperson Jim Garrity.
So if you must venture out, this is step one, according to AAA.
“The biggest thing you want to do… is to simply slow down,” said Garrity.
Also, give yourself extra time, 30 minutes to an hour if need be. If you find yourself skidding out of control, AAA has some advice to help keep you calm.
“What you are going to want to do if you run into a patch of ice is number one, steer in the direction that you want the car to be heading, and don’t slam on the brakes. If you can, avoid applying pressure to the brakes. If you slam on the brakes, you can lose control of the car,” Garrity said.
A few more pointers, don’t stop if you can avoid it, don’t power up hills and don’t stop your vehicle while going up a hill.