As Maryland braces for its first snowfall of the new year, state roads and highways are being pretreated with a salt brine, and people and equipment are being staged to target areas most likely to be affected by the wintery precipitation.
“Those are the little squiggly lines you see in the roadway,” said Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration Spokesman Charles Gischlar in describing the salt brining process. He called Friday’s preparations “standard operating procedure.”
The brine is a mix of 22% salt, 78% water, meant to dry to the roads to prevent the initial coating of ice or snow from sticking.
“It gives us a leg up when the actual precipitation starts,” Gischlar said.
MDOT SHA has 2700 pieces of equipment and people ready to keep roads clear, Gischlar said. Current forecasts have the storm dropping between 2 and 4 inches of snow across Central Maryland. The storm, being dubbed a “Southern Slider” by WMAR 2 News Meteorologists, will likely affect the Washington D.C. area and the lower Eastern Shore the most, so that is where the state is focusing its efforts.
“We can adjust on a dime,” Gischlar said. “In case the storm does shift, we can deploy who we need to.”
For residents curious where crews are and where they may be next, MDOT SHA has debuted a new tool this snow season, the Statewide Transportation Operations Resource Map, or STORM.
The department operates on a $71 million budget for the winter of 2018-2019, Geschlar said. Though some resources were expended during a November system that coated areas of the state, “we’re doing well so far,” Geschlar said of snow removal funds. “We still have plenty of resources available.”
Those who must drive in inclement conditions should do so cautiously, driving well below posted speed limits and remaining cognizant of fellow drivers and road conditions. Make sure your vehicle is in optimal condition to take on slick roads – check to make sure tires are properly inflated and the trend is good, have enough fuel in case your trip takes longer than expected, and see that hoses and belts are in proper working order, Gischlar recommended.
When cleaning off your car in preparation for driving, make sure to clean ALL of it, not just the windows. Snow left on the roof or hood can fly off, inhibiting the view of yourself of fellow drivers and becoming a safety hazard. Snow that is left on these car surfaces can also begin to melt and then refreeze, becoming ice.
“That’s when it becomes a projectile for other motorists,” Gischlar said. “It’s very dangerous, so make sure you take the time to clean your vehicle completely off.”
Poor road conditions also present the likelihood of potentially getting stuck in your vehicle for an extended period of time, so making a few preparations can go a long way towards keeping you comfortable and safe.
“This type of storm here isn’t going to affect the region horrifically like a blizzard would be, but it’s always a good idea in the beginning of the winter season just to pack something so you have it,” Gischlar said, “a couple of bottles a water one of those power bars or something like that, and some flares and jumper cables. Just to have a kit for your vehicle.”