Road crews in Central Missouri again have provided consistency amid variables.
Despite a snowfall Tuesday and Wednesday that created 4-6 inches of accumulation, crews worked around the clock to make roadways passable and safe.
Residents must not take this customary, commendable service for granted. Motorists benefit from the results, but do not experience the challenges of the job.
Information from city, county and state transportation agencies and interviews with veteran snowplow drivers reveal some of the skills required. They include:
• Timing: Strategy varies depending on whether snowfall continues or has stopped, as well as whether winds are re-covering cleared roads or causing drifting. Brandon Stegeman, who drives a snowplow for Jefferson City's street department, said the city's goal during continued snowfall is a pass every 45 minutes to an hour on snow routes. "If we wait four to five hours, we'd never get our trucks through there," he said.
• Coordination: In addition to prioritizing snow routes, drivers often work in tandem to clear wider swaths in a combined pass. Plows traveling in a staggered, side-by-side configuration are not trying to inconvenience motorists with a rolling roadblock, they are combining efficiency and effectiveness.
• Conservation: Drivers also must know what chemicals to use and when to use them. Recent reports show salt, cinders and other road applications - which are expensive - are in short supply. The effect of chemicals, however, varies with temperatures. "The colder it is, the less effective our materials become," said Beth Wright, state maintenance engineer. "At 30 degrees, one pound of salt melts 46 pounds of ice, but that same pound of salt melts less than four pounds of ice when it's zero degrees."
Road crews deserve not only our appreciation, they deserve our assistance.
The single, most important thing you can do is stay off the roadways, if possible, until road crews have finished their jobs. Vehicles - moving, stranded and parked - make an already difficult task more difficult.