County primed for winter weather

Jan. 17--------

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Early warnings of last weekend's winter weather found county and Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials and crews working roads and bridges ahead of the snow, and they will continue to have plows and products on hand to reduce the impact of any future frozen precipitation.

Last weekend's snow and continuing single-digit temperatures saw several area schools delaying a return to the classroom Tuesday. Rogers County Commissioners delayed opening of the courthouse until 9 a.m.

The National Weather Service is predicting sunny skies for the rest of this week, but temperatures will remain near and below freezing, with rain moving into the area Sunday night.

Commission Chair Dan DeLozier, District 1, said his crews began treating roads Wednesday ahead of the weekend weather.

"We are ready. Even in a moment's notice, we can get equipment ready or out on the roads if they start to get any accumulation," DeLozier said. "We will be out checking on road conditions and address what needs addressed to keep roads clear."

District 3 Commissioner Ron Burrows said that since his district switched to a salt-brine system, it allows them to stay ahead of potential weather. But he emphasized that although the county cannot control the weather, its officials can control how they respond to it.

The brine allows participating districts to pretreat three to four days ahead of a storm, which will stay in the pavement pores until activated by moisture. The salt-brine solution can withstand temperatures as cold as below 6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is first dissolved in a large mixer using rock salt and water, then travels to large holding tanks, which dispenses into cylinder tanks that are loaded onto trucks.

One load of brine can cover 30 miles of a two-lane road. Burrows said surrounding counties like Creek and Mayes, and local cities — Inola, Claremore and Catoosa — are filling up tanks with brine that his district is providing.

"Under extreme weather conditions, we help. They pay for the salt while we make the brine," Burrows said.

In District 2, Commissioner Steve Hendrix said his priority is to ensure the safety of citizens.

"By preparing our salt and sand spreader trucks, we are taking measures to keep our roads clear and minimize any potential hazards," he said.

District 2 Foreman Benny King is in charge of keeping trucks and equipment ready to go. Crews were up early in the morning and on call over the weekend.

Cities, counties and states have specific responsibilities related to roads and bridges in their jurisdiction.

According to TJ Gerlach, ODOT spokesman, ODOT plows all parts of state designated highways, including through city or town limits. In Rogers County, this is US-412, US-169, SH-20, SH-28, SH-28A, SH-66, SH-88, SH-167, and SH-266.

The Turnpike Authority plows I-44/Will Rogers Turnpike.

Gerlach said ODOT and OTA continually monitor weather conditions and have crews out a few hours before the storm is due.

Both agencies' trucks are prepared for winter weather response with plows and spreaders loaded and a salt mixture. Crews work until all highways are considered clear.

Gerlach recommended travelers who need to be on the roads during adverse weather conditions, should reduce their speed, give plenty of space from other vehicles, and remain attentive.

If anyone encounters a snowplow, Gerlach said to give it room to operate by staying back at least 200 feet, and do not pass it.