Three new snowplow attachments and the ability to mix its own salt brine should help the Shoals division of the Alabama Department of Transportation keep state highways clear of ice and snow this winter.
Hiram Garner, field operations manager for the highway department’s Second Division, said the department will utilize a variety of equipment and chemicals to deal with any winter precipitation.
The Second Division includes Colbert, Lauderdale and Franklin counties.
“What we’re going to do this year is similar to what the state of Tennessee does — apply a salt brine solution to the highways,” Garner said.
The solution can be applied 36 to 48 hours prior to a snow or ice event, Garner said. It prevents ice and snow from bonding to the road surface and is easily removed from roadways.
Each district within the Second Division also has three new snowplows that attach to the front of a dump truck. The Second Division has four districts, each made up of two counties. District 1 includes Colbert and Lauderdale counties.
The bed of each snowplow also can be fitted with a spreader box that can spread salt on roadways to remove any ice that might remain. Sand can be spread in the event of a light dusting of snow, Garner said, which helps create friction between the road and a vehicle’s tires.
The division began using the salt brine in 2011, but the solution had to be shipped from Birmingham.
Garner said the Second Division has the ability to produce its own salt brine and store it in three, 5,000-gallon tanks at the main office in Tuscumbia. He said each district now has three storage tanks.
“We’ve filled everything to capacity,” Garner said. “We’re just waiting for an event.”
Applicators can be placed in dump truck beds. The division has two large trailers that can hold 1,635 gallons of brine used to pretreat Interstate 65 in Limestone County and sections of the Interstate 22 corridor.
Garner said maintenance crews also have inspected the two automatic de-icing systems on O’Neal and Shoals Creek bridges.
Both tanks have been filled with a chemical called calcium magnesium acetate, which melts ice but is not as corrosive as salt.
The heads of road departments in Colbert and Lauderdale counties said they are prepared for any precipitation.
“We always keep a good supply of calcium chloride and sand stockpiled through the year,” Lauderdale County Engineer Ken Allamel said. “Obviously, this time of year we make sure the stuff is in good shape. We service all the spreaders. Beyond that, we keep an eye on the weather forecast.”
Like the state, the Lauderdale County Road Department uses spreaders that can be mounted in the beds of dump trucks to apply the material.
Allamel said when snow falls, they try to spread material on major collector roads such as Waterloo Road and Lauderdale 47, which runs from Florence to Greenhill. They have learned from past experience which roads tend to need the most attention, he said.
The plan is pretty much the same in neighboring Colbert County, Assistant Colbert County Engineer Jeremy Robison said.
The county’s spreader boxes have been serviced, repaired or replaced and the county has several pallets of calcium chloride and salt on standby.
“When we got the 10 inches of snow, we had to use motor graders to get that stuff off,” Robison said.
He said the county has contracts with local contractors to help remove snow with their motor graders if necessary.
There is another precaution Robison recommends.
“If the roads are bad, we really encourage people to stay home,” Robison said. “It’s not worth the risk to get out. There are so many people that want to get out and sightsee.”
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.