St. Joseph motorists may have noticed Missouri Department of Transportation snow plows out on the roads Thursday even though there is no major snow in the forecast yet.
MoDOT Northwest Region District Maintenance and Traffic Engineer Tonya Lohman said the department has been doing winter drills for several years to help new employees learn their routes.
“Those new employees are given the opportunity to go and ride the routes that they’re going to be on for doing snow removal,” Lohman said. “That way they can kind of see where the turnaround spots are, they can see narrow bridges, they can see where we have guardrail, they can see if someone has built one of those big monument mailboxes that they need to watch out for and just all those kind of things so they can kind of be prepared when they’re out there.”
Lohman said each snow event is different and therefore treated differently.
“I like to kind of compare it to a classroom of kids. The teacher shows up and all the kids don’t learn the same. You’ve got the kids that learn by listening, you’ve got the kids that learn by viewing… so just like that classroom of students, every storm comes in and it’s different,” Lohman said. “We have to base our strategy off of what a meteorologist is doing, looking at weather maps and making their predictions… what time, what wind speed, what ground temperature. We use that information to say, ‘Are we going to pretreat? Are we going to start at 7 a.m.? Are we go ahead call people in early at 2 a.m. because we think it’s going to hit before rush hour.’”
Earl Puett is a Maintenance Crew Leader at the St. Joseph metro building. Puett said one of the worst winter events he’s experienced in his 19 years on the job was in 2007.
“It seemed like we worked 12 or 14 hours a day, every day and we had a lot of drifting and winds wouldn’t lay down,” Puett said. “The next one I remember was two years later… we had a terrible ice storm, dropped a lot of limbs around town, power lines. That was really tough getting through.”
There may be some long hours and cold weather, but Puett said he enjoys his job.
“I like to plow snow, I’ve always enjoyed plowing snow,” Puett said. “I like knowing I’m out here trying to get the road back to a condition for everybody to drive around and get around on safely too.”
MoDOT offers multiple resources for travelers year-round including a Traveler Information Map on their website and MoDOT apps for your phone.