FAYETTEVILLE -- Northwest Arkansas officials were watching the skies Friday, wondering if they'll have to deal with the first winter storm of the season this weekend.
"We are monitoring the situation," said Jay Frasier, head of Benton County's Road Department. "If it looks like we're going to get something, we'll be out in advance pretreating. If it looks like it's going to pass by, we'll wait and see what, if anything, we get."
The National Weather Service weather forecast and other information can be found at www.weather.gov.
Source: Staff report
The forecast from the National Weather Service office in Tulsa, Okla., shows a winter storm moving through Kansas and Missouri, with the southern edge of it possibly dipping south this evening. Northwest Arkansas could get snow or a wintry mix or rain depending on the track of the storm. Another storm was over Arizona and New Mexico on Friday, with yet another system moving toward the California coast.
Carl Gales, chief of staff for Washington County Judge Joseph Wood, was watching and waiting Friday afternoon. Gales said winter storms often present different problems to Washington County than Benton County.
"They tend to get more snow up there where we will get more ice," Gales said.
Charles Ward, Washington County's road superintendent, said his plans are based on experience, with trucks being designated to spread gravel on rural roads. Washington County doesn't use salt or other methods to melt snow and ice, Ward said.
"In the 22 years I've been here, it's been our experience that the gravel works best," Ward said. "It's noncorrosive and it doesn't create problems with melting and re-freezing. The half-inch chips we use give good traction. If you get some melting and re-freezing, the gravel stays in place. It's rough, like sandpaper."
Ward said he has employees on call for weather emergencies. He said it takes about 15 minutes to put a gravel spreader on a truck bed. The county typically has six chip trucks and another nine fitted with snow plows. Road graders are also used.
Frasier said Benton County has bought a brine-making machine the county will be using for the first time this year. The machine should produce about 800 gallons of brine in an hour, Frasier said. The county has 3,000-gallon tanks that can be fitted on dump trucks to spread the liquid mix as a treatment for snow and ice. The Road Department also will have dump trucks spreading salt and sand and plows to remove snow and ice if needed.
"If we get a thin skin of snow and ice, that brine will just take it right off," Frasier said.
Becky Stewart, chief of Central Emergency Medical Services, said the service keeps ambulances ready for winter weather.
"We have studded tires for all of them," Stewart said. "We also have a reserve fleet. Those reserves stay with studded tires all winter. We keep them in our stations out in the county and when it looks like ice in particular the crews will switch to units with the studded tires."
Stewart said the company has snow chains and has found those work well in deep snow, but not in other conditions. She said the chains have a tendency to break or come loose, damaging the vehicles.
Stewart said the ambulance company also pays attention to its drivers.
"Our people are trained to drive on ice and snow," she said "They also know to drive slow and get there safely."
NW News on 01/12/2019
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