POMEROY — Before the first snowflake even begins to blow or land on blacktop in Meigs County, the employees of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Meigs County garage are hard at work to salt and plow the roads to keep residents safe no matter what day the first snow falls.
“This is Ohio; it can snow tomorrow or it won’t snow until December or January,” David Rose, ODOT public information officer, said.
However, before they can complete this task, they must go through the rigors of vehicle inspection, which took place Tuesday at the district garage on State Route 7. After beginning their morning in Gallia County, the four crews of two mechanics, along with some local mechanics, inspected the 13 snow plow vehicles in Meigs County’s fleet.
Rose, who was on-site during the visit, said each vehicle undergoes a 150-plus point inspection by two mechanics at a time.
“Obviously, we cannot predict what weather Mother Nature is going to throw at us, and that’s why these winter readiness events are so important because, ultimately, we can only control what we can control,” he said. “And those factors are people, making sure they’re trained on the best and most efficient snowplowing techniques and that they’re up to date on new or the best practice safety tips for them, because obviously we want to keep them safe.”
Rose said that the District 10 inspection mechanics started at the southern end of the district and worked their way north, eventually completing their last inspection in Washington County, which houses 26 snow plow vehicles. In every county, including Meigs, a driver is assigned to a specific vehicle and route throughout the entire winter season, which Rose said for ODOT starts Nov. 1 and lasts through April 1. During last year’s ODOT winter season, plows in all District 10 counties traveled about 345,000 miles, he said.
“What’s cool about that is they’re responsible for that truck,” Rose said. “They know that truck inside out; that’s their baby. They’ve been plowing that same route for years, so they know what spots tend to get snowdrifts if it’s windier that day, they know how to plow those hills and those curves because southeast Ohio is very hilly and curvy, and so they know that route like the back of their hand. So that’s really good because they can efficiently plow that route. They know it so well because they’ve been doing it for so many years.”
And while normal plowing will continue this year as it has with any year, Rose said the plow that clears U.S. 33 will also have a wing plow this year, or a side plow, which allows the vehicle to plow snow from both lanes, since U.S. 33 is a four-lane highway. Rose said this feature will optimize safety for one of the most-traveled roads in the county.
“Our goal is to get out there as soon as possible and make the roads passable,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s snow, sleet, ice … whatever it may be.”
But to make road travel as safe as possible, Rose said citizens must also play their own part as well.
“We always say, ‘Don’t crowd the plow,’” he said. “Please don’t try to pass them, don’t try to do anything that’s going to be dangerous. They go slowly so they can clear the roads.”
Rose said last year there were 89 incidents in which drivers struck snow plows in the state, and that the safety of all is most important, including those who sacrifice their time for the safety of others.
“Our plow drivers are out there,” he said. “They’re dedicated, they’re hard-working, they’re missing holiday events with their kids so they can be out there to keep people safe, so everyone should do their part and be responsible. Let our plow drivers do their work.”
To keep an eye on road conditions before and during any winter precipitation, visit ohgo.com or call the District 10 office at 740-568-3900 or toll-free at 1-800-845-0226. The Meigs County Sheriff’s Office decides snow emergency levels in the county, and they can be reached at 740-992-3371.
Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2555.