Technology gives road crews a heads-up on winter forecast

Larry Di Giovanni/News One of the Knox County Engineer Office’s newest trucks, mounted with a 3,000-pound snowplow blade, stands ready to take on plowing duties from its confines inside the office’s Columbus Road Highway Department area. Up to a foot of snow is expected to fall Saturday.

Larry Di Giovanni/Mount Vernon News

One of the Knox County Engineer Office’s newest trucks, mounted with a 3,000-pound snowplow blade, stands ready to take on plowing duties from its confines inside the office’s Columbus Road Highway Department area. Up to a foot of snow is expected to fall Saturday.

MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Engineer’s Office demonstrated a free piece of digital technology Monday to the Knox County Commissioners, and they were still talking about it during Tuesday’s meeting.

Intellicast.com, which provides the engineer’s office with weather news, showed county officials news they don’t want to hear — another winter storm is on its way.

Engineer Office Fiscal Officer Chester Woods III showed how easy it was to simply type in one’s zip code in the upper right corner, and come out with a 10-day forecast. He even said he prefers it to the National Weather Service. Intellicast.com offers weather charts that break down each day’s weather in sophisticated fashion, with toggling (hovering) over a section of chart that provides even more information, like expected amount of precipitation.

“I like the fact that you can break it down by the hour,” Woods said.

He informed commissioners that, based on the 10-day forecast, parts of Knox County can expect between 8 inches and a foot of snow this Saturday — and another 3 to 5 inches the following Wednesday, Jan. 25. Of course, weather fluctuates and is always subject to change — so commissioners are hoping for a different outcome.

“When he (Woods) showed us that forecast yesterday, we weren’t real happy,” Commission President Teresa Bemiller said Tuesday.

Knox County Engineer Cameron Keaton said no matter how much snow falls Saturday, and then Wednesday and beyond, his Highway Department of 26 employees will be ready to plow. It includes two road crews working in shifts of 12 hours, typically, but up to 16 hours if necessary. They cover 400 miles of county roads in their snowplow-mounted trucks, which also include dropping either road salt or a mix of salt and stone, called “grit.” When one considers that road crews plow one side of a road, and then the other, they are actually plowing 800 miles of road, he said.

Those 400 miles of county roads, some major roads such as Columbus Road and Sycamore Road, comprise 17 snowplow routes the Engineer’s Office covers. Each route is about 23 to 24 miles long. During last Saturday’s snowfall of about 5 inches, his roads crews used 300 tons of salt and mix. They can control the amount of salt dispersed on the road from a console located near their

from a console located near their right elbows when they drive. The Engineer Office’s newest trucks are valued at $160,000, he said. They are large durable trucks with plows that weigh 3,000 pounds each. A conveyor-type system is used to move each plow onto a truck.

Intellicast.com is just one more online weather prediction tool that, in tandem with the National Weather Service, the Ohio Department of Transportation website, and others, give counties a detailed account of what weather lies ahead, Keaton said. Despite delivering bad news sometimes, another predictive tool is always welcome. When roads crews are plowing snow, there is always a full-time mechanic on duty, he added, and the Highway Department maintains its own vehicles.

For a good heavy snow, Keaton said county road workers — 17 on the road at a time — will take 4 to 5 hours for their route. The salt and “grit” is stored in their Columbus Road location in three barn-like structures. Each can hold 1,200 tons of salt, which has seen its price nearly doubled recently.

 

Larry Di Giovanni: 740-397-5333 or larry@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews

 

 

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