April 25, 2014

Drivers urged to be more careful around snowplows

The DOT is urging mortorists to slow down and use caution around snowplows.

The DOT is urging mortorists to slow down and use caution around snowplows.

The latest snowstorm to hit the state cruised through during the morning commute in many areas and shifted a bit compared to forecasts.

Iowa Department of Transportation winter operations manager, Annette Dunn, says state crews had to adjust.

“It was a little bit different than what the weather reports the we were getting had been saying. And we really got a heavy band of snow in central Iowa, basically from the southern half of I-35 all the way to Waterloo and the southeast quarter of the state. But that central portion of the state — we were not anticipating that heavy of a snow,” Dunn explains.

A couple of things work in the snow crews favor — it’s a weekday and they were already out — and the temperature.

“Road temperatures were a little bit warmer when the snow came in and it allowed for it to melt, but that actually might be a problem for us later,” Dunn says. “We are putting material down right now and we have been since this morning, hoping that we don’t get a refreeze. But that is something we are concerned about for the afternoon commute and into the evening, is the refreeze.”

Dunn says motorists could do a better job of being patient with snowplow drivers. “We do have a problem with motorists trying to get around snowplows because obviously snowplows travel at a lower rate of speed to try and get better coverage of the road when they are removing the snow. And that does become a problem because motorists try to zoom around,” according to Dunn.

“And many times the motorists themselves cause their own accidents and spin out in front of our plows, and that’s a problem.” Dunn says on multi-lane roads they are using a gang-plow system where multiple plows will move in unison to clear the snow off several lanes at once.

She says you should recognize these situations and adjust your driving accordingly. “The main thing is to slow down and understand if you do not have a clear lane to pass in that you should not go around on the shoulder. That is one of the things we see quite often, that should not be happening and they need to be really careful. There is reason why we are in the road and clearing that roadway making it safe for them to drive,” Dunn says.

If cars drive over the snow before it gets plowed off highways, it can create more problems. “When you pack down the snow, it becomes like a diamond. Under pressure, it turns to ice,” Dunn says. She says that packed ice is much harder to get off the roadways, especially if the temperature drops. Dunn says motorists should be aware more snow is forecast for today, and they should check travel conditions before venturing out.

You can check road conditions at: www.511ia.org, or by calling 5-1-1- in Iowa.