January 25, 2011

UPDATE….DOT makes quick work of clearing snow and ice


The North Carolina Department of Transportation is used to scraping sand off the roads of Hatteras and Ocracoke. However, over the weekend, maintenance crews had a rare chance to try their hand at clearing snow and ice.

And most islanders give them high marks for their work.

“DOT deserves a pat on the back for an outstanding job done getting snow removal trucks down to clear our roads,” Frank Folb of Buxton, owner of Frank and Fran’s tackle shop in Avon, said yesterday in an e-mail to The Island Free Press.

“I saw the trucks start early, and they were still going at it after dark yesterday evening and out again early this morning doing side roads,” he added. “I do not know where these workers came in from, but I tip my hat to them. It was easy traveling to Avon this morning from Buxton.”

Allen Russell, DOT county maintenance engineer, agreed with forecasters and islanders that the amount of snow that fell was a surprise.

He adds that he guesses he “just got lucky” because the snow was forecast for the southern Outer Banks, so he moved crews and equipment to Hatteras and Ocracoke to clear what was an expected 1 or 2 inches of snow.

Although the National Weather Service’s total is still 6 inches for Rodanthe, Buxton, and Ocracoke, most of us now know that there was much more in most places – a good 8 to 10 inches. Russell said it was 8 inches deep at the DOT maintenance yard in Buxton.

Hatteras and Ocracoke each has one snow plow, which might be one more than you would expect given the rarity of snowstorms on the islands.  The last serious snow was in January, 2003.

Russell said he moved equipment from Manteo and Currituck counties to the south when he heard the forecast. 

Northern and western Dare County and Currituck County have had several measurable snowfalls this winter, as is the norm, so those areas have more equipment.

DOT also moved personnel to the islands – a total of four people from Currituck and six from Manteo – to supplement the local crews of three in Buxton and two in Ocracoke.

The crews worked around the clock, starting Saturday morning, Jan. 22, and winding up late yesterday, Jan 24.

First, salt brine was spread on the dry surfaces, and then they were salted down.  When the snow reaches 2 to 4 inches, Russell said, “You have to start plowing.” The crews started plowing about 5 or 6 p.m. Saturday and continued all night.

First priority is the primary roadways, mostly Highway 12, which was largely cleared by Sunday morning. Then the crews moved on to the secondary roads – or at least the secondary roads that could accommodate a snow plow.

By last evening, Highway 12 and many secondary roads were clear between the plowing and scraping and temperatures yesterday in the ‘40s under sunny skies.

Today, we are seeing a steady rain and warmer temperatures. 

There are still a few patches of snow in places that haven’t gotten a lot of sunshine, but, for the most part, our rare and exciting snow event is over.

The snowmen that popped up everywhere on Hatteras and Ocracoke on Sunday are mere melting shadows of their former selves, but the kids – old and young – won’t soon forget the snow storm of 2011.

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