Thursday, December 16, 2010

Behind the Scenes of MoDOT's Winter Operations

Sometimes it's the little things that count the most. While most people envision big trucks plowing snow when it comes to our winter operations, there is an awful lot that goes on behind the scenes to help you get where you're going safely when the weather turns bad.

MoDOT becomes a beehive of activity at the mere hint of snow and ice. On a local level, staff members take a look at the tools they have - weather forecasts, pavement sensors, information from other states, etc. - and put their heads together to determine the best course of action to take. Like the snowflakes falling to the ground, no two storms are alike and neither is the plan of attack.

As each area carries out its action plan for the situation at hand, the information is shared with staff statewide. We use the word "snowcall" to describe the telephone conference calls that take place to make sure we're operating efficiently and effectively on a statewide level. The calls are used to determine what areas may need additional resources, such as people or equipment, and who has staff and trucks to spare. Sometimes, it's the mention that one area is noticing a shift in the storm that puts another region on alert. Other times, it's a heads up that certain chemicals and treatments are working better than others under the particular conditions. Or perhaps its a notice that highways in neighboring states are closed and will affect Missouri travelers. A wrap-up snowcall typically takes place following each winter weather event to determine what went right and what we can do to get better.

While all this is going on behind the scenes, our customer service representatives are busy 24/7 taking calls, providing road condition information and dispatching crews to trouble spots. Other employees are busy inputting data to keep the Traveler Information Map current for motorists. Still others are feeding information to the media and public via Twitter and Facebook.

It's all hands on deck at MoDOT when it comes to keeping roads clear and safe for travel. While we can't fool Mother Nature, we do try to manage what she sends our way!