SHA Prepared For Worst With Winter A Month Away

OCEAN CITY – The snowstorms of 2010’s winter season still haunts many with memories of mountains of snow surrounding the roadways and Coastal Highway just being a slab of ice and snow. During this year’s 2nd Annual Snow Show, held last Thursday in Salisbury, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) confirmed it’s making sure to be prepared for another rough winter, just in case.

“There is no typical Maryland winter,” District Engineer Donnie Drewer said. “One year we get mostly rain here on the shore, and others we get buried. No matter what Mother Nature brings the Maryland State Highway Administration is ready to clear the roads ahead.”

According to the SHA, last year approximately 368,854 tons of salt and 680,000 gallons of salt brine were used to remove an average of 86 inches of snow throughout the state. For this winter, SHA officials are preparing with 340,000 tons of salt and 675,000 gallons of salt brine.

“What will this winter bring? I’m certainly not going to predict,” Drewer said. “But if I had my rathers, I would rather get a normal winter, rather then the one we had last year.”

The SHA’s goal for this winter season is to pre-treat all interstates and Route 50 in advance of the storm. Pre-treating the roadways involves using salt brine, which helps ice and snow from sticking or bonding to the pavement at the onset of a storm. Pre-treating will not take place if a storm is expected to begin as rain because it will cause the brine solution to wash off and be ineffective.

“We operate a little differently here on the shore because we have warmer temperatures here,” Drewer said. “Most times a snow will start with rain rather than snow … If we get a forecast that it is 100 percent chance of snow, and we think it will start as snow then we would pre-treat, which will be a big help to get us ahead of the storm.”

According to the SHA, crews “push the white stuff off the roads using a little green stuff.”

Crews have used a 5 percent mixture of biodiesel fuel since 2005.  Biodiesel fuel reduces particulate matter, unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. It is a renewable resource of energy that is derived from resources such as soybeans.

The SHA maintains nearly 17,000 lane miles. There are up to 2,700 people available and up to 2,400 pieces of equipment available to fight winter storms throughout the state of Maryland. Since the year of 2000, there has been an average of seven snowstorms per year on the Eastern Shore.

SHA prioritizes its incident or emergency response by using a Coordinated Highway Action Response Team (CHART). CHART clears crashes or assists stranded vehicles that have potential to create major congestion or cause long back-ups.

During winter storms, the SHA monitors a bank of more than 100 SHA maintained roadway cameras throughout the state from the Statewide Operations Center (SOC) in Hanover, Md.

When an emergency occurs, the SOC doubles as the Emergency Operations Center. From there, operators monitor traffic, collect information from roadway sensors and deploy equipment such as snowplows and salt trucks.

“Our highway maintenance crews are ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week to prevent or remove snow and ice,” Drewer said.

There are a few things travelers need to remember during severe winter weather themselves. Don’t drive during a snowstorm unless absolutely necessary. Don’t crowd the plow, never pass a snowplow, and if you are driving behind a snowplow or salt truck provide plenty of space behind the truck. Remember that bridges, ramps and overpasses freeze first. Also, four-wheel drive vehicles are just as vulnerable to slipping on ice as regular two wheel drive vehicles, according to the SHA.

If travelers follow safety precautions, Drewer said, “we could save more than 600 lives in Maryland each year.”

Travelers can plan ahead by logging onto and clicking on “CHART”. The website offers travel information, snow emergency plans, real-time traffic camera views, weather information, average travel speed maps and incident-related road closure reports.

“Remember these six words — ice and snow, take it slow,” said Drewer.