Snow and ice season is here and Washington County does have a normal amount of salt committed through the Ohio Department of Transportation's (ODOT) cooperative purchase program to mix with grit to spread on Washington County's highways.
ODOT has a motto posted at its facilities "Ice and Snow, Take it Slow" and nothing could be truer. The primary responsibility for safe highway travel rests with the driver. In our terrain with its hilly, curvy and narrow roadways, extra care needs to be exercised. Expect the unexpected. Shady areas in the valleys can have slick spots (black ice), even though the majority of the pavement may appear to be clear and dry.
When inclement weather is forecast or if you see a wet area in cold weather, take it slow. Leave earlier to allow more time to get to your destination. It is advisable to have snow tread or studded tires, or have tire chains readily available, and when conditions are more severe, not to travel at all.
Washington County runs 15 snow routes, ranging from 21 to 29 miles in length. Each road is first plowed once in each direction, which may not open the full width of the road. A mix of salt and grit is spread along with plowing when there is some accumulation except when snow continues heavily, in which case only plowing is done. Spreading mix in heavy continuous snow wastes the material as the salt/grit mix gets plowed off the road on the next pass. After the first round of plowing just to get the road open, the roads are plowed again, pushing the snow further back to open it to full road width. We also have several road graders working to plow snow when heavy snows occur, and some employees park a county vehicle at their residence in order to get to their assigned route as soon as possible.
Roads having more traffic have the higher needs and priorities and so on down the line to the low volume roads. Intersections and some hills and curves will get priority, as in the past, with the remainder of the roads only being lightly plowed if the snow is deep enough to plow.
Mailboxes, fences, driveways and driveway culverts are privately owned and are on public road right of way by permission. These must be maintained so that they don't interfere with traffic and road maintenance operations. Mailboxes and posts should be inspected now, and if deteriorated, consider replacing or repairing them because snow thrown from plows may damage mailboxes or even fences. The county does not replace these items damaged under snow emergency circumstances.
It is recommended that citizens shovel or plow snow on the left side (and not in the road) of the driveway as they face their house or otherwise place the driveway snow away from where plows will throw it back into the driveway.
The Washington County Highway Department crews work long hours under difficult and hazardous conditions during snow events, as do all highway department crews. They are required and deserve to have rest periods with no more than 16 hours driving so we don't always have a driver in each of the 15 areas at all times during long duration snow emergencies. I hope you will appreciate the effort they make, but if you do have a complaint, you may call the county engineer's office at (740) 376-7430.
Robert I. Badger, PE, PS, is Washington County's engineer.