Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation say they’re ready for the winter storm that’s headed for the Hawkeye State which forecasters say may drop four to eight inches of snow starting this afternoon and into tonight.
Bob Younie, the DOT’s state maintenance engineer, says they prepare for this type of storm months in advance.
“The DOT has about 900 snow plow trucks and we deploy them where needed, when needed,” Younie says, “and we will move them around the state, if needed.”
The prediction calls for strong winds and wind chill factors by tomorrow morning of 20 to 30-degrees below zero. Many tons of rock salt are stored in various state facilities across Iowa, ready to be spread on the highways, but the salt won’t be used if it gets too cold, too fast.
“The colder the temperature is, the less salt works for us,” Younie says. “Salt works best above 10 degrees fahrenheit and if the sun’s out, too, salt works good. It’ll be depending on conditions with the storm.”
It’s tough to imagine just how much salt is dumped on Iowa’s roads every winter. “The Iowa DOT uses annually about 170,000 tons of salt and we have 210,000 tons on hand right now,” Younie says, “so we have plenty of salt for the rest of the year and we certainly have enough salt for this storm.”
In addition to the many tons of sand that are spread on the state’s thoroughfares, there’s another tool in the arsenal to fight a build-up of snow and ice:
“The DOT uses a lot of brine,” Younie says. “Brine is a mixture of salt and water and brine goes to work immediately. A piece of salt actually has to get wet before it goes to work, so we pre-wet salt, too. We use brine, which is salt in the liquid form, and then we use salt which we pre-wet and it goes to work right away.”
Iowa typically sees 25 winter events every year and Younie says they’re all different, but they also have many similarities.
“This is going to be a relatively short storm but it’s going to be really cold,” he says. “I would caution motorists, if you have to go out and drive, make sure you make that decision if you really have to do it, and then be prepared. Make sure your seat belt is on and all of your passengers are buckled up. This is not June, this is January.”
See the full forecast at www.weather.gov.