While the calendar says winter starts December 21st, the DOT’s winter operations administrator Craig Bargfrede says winter started for them back in mid-October, and they’ve been preparing for the worst ever since.
“Trucks were being serviced, plows were being installed, spreaders were being calibrated, all of the things we need to do from an equipment standpoint were being accomplished,” Bargfrede says. “The Iowa DOT has somewhere in the neighborhood of 230,000 ton of salt storage spread across our 101 garages.”
The DOT expects to be fighting the elements of winter well into spring, typically allotting for six months of snow — from October 15th to April 15th. Whenever winter storms are approaching, Bargfrede says Iowans may spot a DOT truck dumping a salty brine solution on the road, even on a sunny day.
“That gets the material out on the system, out on the pavement, so that when the event starts, the material is already there and can start preventing a bond between the snow and ice to the pavement,” Bargfrede says. “That allows us to come through with our snow plow trucks and clear the pavement much easier, much faster.”
“All of our batteries, our wiper blades, our fluid — as far as windshield washer fluid, those types of things, those are just simple maintenance things that we tell the public to do, we want to make sure we’re doing it as well,” Dinkla says. “Each of our troopers, they’re going to make sure they have a winter survival kit.”
Those emergency kits are recommended for all motorists and should contain things like blankets, bottled water, power bars, matches and candles, flashlights and batteries, and a weather radio. Dinkla says those kits can be true life-savers.
“We look back a couple of years ago when I-35 was shut down in the northern part of the state, we actually had troopers that were sleeping in their cars for a couple of days,” Dinkla says. “They could not leave the interstate, they needed to be there to maintain it and they couldn’t get out themselves.”
It’s recommended that motorists install the free “Iowa 511” app on their smartphones, as it can provide a host of information about the roads and conditions, including real-time photos from snowplows.