According to weather forecasters on both the local and national levels, central Ohio is going to experience some level of snowfall this weekend. Models show a variety of outcomes for this storm, ranging from rain to ice to snow and a mixture of all three. Certain regions could get anywhere from less than one inch of snow to more than a foot come Saturday morning.
Despite the difference in forecasts, there is one important question to ask: is Madison County prepared for whatever may fall from the sky? The short answer: yes.
Preparation for precipitation
On Wednesday crews at the Madison County Engineer’s office were cleaning plow trucks and prepping salt ahead of the weekend’s weather. County engineer Bryan Dhume said the area has been fortunate for the last few years with the string of mild winters.
“As far as snow we got coming in this weekend, to be honest, it’s business as usual,” Dhume said. “This time of year we’re prepared for snow and ice at all times. We have to be. We do that starting in November.”
The county has eight frontline plow trucks and three back-up trucks. Each of the eight trucks has its own separate route that covers 343 miles of county roads and 127 miles of township roads. Between each of the eight routes, a truck covers around 59 miles of territory.
“One unique thing we have here in Madison County is a cooperative agreement with the townships. The county supplies the townships with salt and grit (a rock mixture) and, in return, they help us out with plowing on the county road,” Dhume said. If all county and township trucks are needed to handle the conditions, combined, there are 22 trucks in total.
Clearing the roads
“We don’t use straight salt. We use a 1:1 mixture of salt to number nine stone,” Dhume said. The combination of finely crushed gravel and salt allows for more effective road treatment. “That reduces the amount of salt we have to use and the stone provides extra traction.” He said that on the lower volume roads, there isn’t enough traffic to run over the mixture and activate the spreading of the brine.
“Right now, we’re just making sure we have plenty mixed up in the barn,” said Dhume. At the office location of U.S. Route 42, the county has a salt barn capable of storing up to 4,000 tons of salt. “In effort to provide the best value to the public, we try to limit the overnight work. Generally speaking, between the hours of 8:30 at night and 3:30 in the morning, unless roads are in impassable conditions or we have ice, we really try to not to be out during those hours.”
Dhume tries to have crews in at 3:30 a.m. or after to do a pass of their particular route ahead of the rush-hour time.
Plenty of salt, plenty of resources
Dhume says the county is well-stocked for whatever should hit this season. Madison County gets their salt from Cargill, an industrial salt company who gets their crystals from the bed underneath Lake Erie.
“There’s a minimum I have to purchase and a maximum that they have to sell me,” Dhume said. This season, the county had around 2,000 tons left over from last season. “I committed to buying 2,000 tons and they have to sell me up to 2,400.”
In instances like the last couple of weeks where the county experienced sub-zero temperatures, drivers can mix liquid calcium-chloride with the salt as a way to combat the ice in extreme conditions.
“Once you get down to the single digits, your salt just doesn’t work well,” Dhume said. Crews also have access to V-shaped plows which allow trucks to take on heavy snow. Between the plows and salting, Madison County crews are ready for the winter weather.
“You never can tell what will happen,” Dhume said. “But these crews are ready to go.”
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.