Pictured above is an Ohio Department of Transportation 5,500-gallon tanker truck spraying brine on a roadway in preparation for a winter storm. (Photo submitted)
By CAITLIN EYTH
Times Bulletin News Writer
VAN WERT - As winter begins and snow becomes more prevalent in the forecast, brining trucks and snow plows will be a common sight on area roads. Before snow touched the ground last week, workers were out preparing the roads for winter weather.
Brine is a solution made of salt and water that lowers the freezing point so water is not able to ice on the roadways as quickly. Trucks spread brine on roads before snow and ice arrive.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is responsible for keeping major highways and interstates clear during the winter. ODOT District 1 covers eight counties: Allen, Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and Wyandot. Each county has a brine unit from ODOT but District 1 currently only has two of the large 5,500-gallon tanker trucks. One of those tanker trucks is utilized in Van Wert county. ODOT District 1 is currently working to acquire three more tanker trucks to cover the area.
Successfully keeping roads clear and safe requires planning in advance and adapting as circumstances change.
"We always plan for a typical Ohio winter. We go into every winter with that plan but weather is unpredictable," ODOT District 1 Public Information Officer Rhonda Pees said. "History tells us what to expect but what we do depends on current weather conditions. It is a science when brine is applied."
Several different factors affect when brine can be used. The temperature has to be in the right range, the dew point needs to be low and it should not rain for 24 hours after brine is applied.
"If there is too much moisture in the air, the brine won't dry and that will just make the roads slick. If the temperature is too low, brine does not work and we have to switch to a calcium chloride treatment," Pees explained.
ODOT tracks the weather forecast so they can have brine on the roads before snow begins to fall.
"The idea is to have the material on the roadway so it's there, ready to work when the weather comes," ODOT District 1 Deputy Director Leonard E. Brown said. "So when you see us out applying brine and the sun is shining, you'd better check the weather forecast because a change is coming."
Pees added, "We are definitely weather watchers. We have to get out ahead of a storm because with eight counties we have a lot of area to cover."