Wednesday’s snowfall gave the Iowa Department of Transportation its first opportunity this season to test new winter equipment. Annette Dunn, the D.O.T.’s winter operations director, says their trucks were outfitted with snowplows last month and employees are monitoring weather conditions across the state to help plow operators stay ahead of the weather.

“I would say that sometimes we all get surprised but I would say we try not to get surprised. Weather patterns do change on us and that gets very frustrating if we can’t get in front of the weather,” Dunn said. The DO.T. has stockpiled 200,000 tons of salt and 2.5-million gallons of salt brine, a mixture of rock salt and water.

Dunn says those are the two most common substances used by D.O.T. crews to remove snow and ice from roads. “Scientifically speaking, that tends to be what’s the most affective and cost effective for us in our state,” Dunn said. “We do use a little bit of sand and a little bit of calcium chloride through different parts of Iowa, but that is not on a consistent basis.”

Salt brine is either paired with salt or is used to pre-treat roads before a winter storm. The D.O.T.’s five year average of salt use is about 33,000 tons more than the department currently has on hand. Dunn says they will order more if needed.

The agency employs nearly 1,200 equipment operators, mechanics and supervisors to maintain more than 9,400 miles of interstates and highways.