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NCDOT Prepares for Winter Storm, Offers Driving Tips, Gives Insight Into Which Roads Plowed First

NCDOT trucks are ready to battle the winter weather on Wednesday. Photo by Ken Ketchie
NCDOT trucks are ready to battle the winter weather on Wednesday. Photo by Ken Ketchie

NCDOT Crews Prepare Statewide for Another Round of Winter Weather
Crews pretreating roads, on standby for snow and ice event

Feb. 11, 2014. From the mountains to the coast, N.C. Department of Transportation crews are pre-treating roads with a salt-water mix called brine ahead of a storm forecasters predict will bring snow, ice or a wintry mix to North Carolina. This proactive move will help ensure travel conditions on the roads are as safe as possible.

Because the forecast currently includes the potential for ice accumulation, NCDOT reminds residents of the dangers of fallen trees and power lines. NCDOT crews will work with the power companies to remove the trees and lines as needed and ask residents not to take matters into their own hands.

Here’s what NCDOT crews are doing to prepare in various regions of the state.

Western—Brining operations began Sunday on all bare pavement routes and should be completed Monday evening.  Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties had snow removal operations taking place over the weekend so salt is already on primary routes there. Crews are on standby to reapply mixture if needed, and plow and sand once the weather hits.

Charlotte Area—Crews began brining Sunday in Mecklenburg and Union counties on all bare pavement routes and have completed their pre-icing operations. Crews are on standby to reapply mixture, if needed, are preparing trucks to plow and sand once the weather arrives.

Central –Brining operations started Monday and will continue all day to spread the mixture on all bare pavement routes, which includes interstates, four-lane divided primary routes, and other primary and secondary routes. Crews are on standby to plow and sand once the snow begins to fall.                                                                         

Eastern—Brining operations started Monday on all bare pavement routes in anticipation of the wintry mix.  Crews are on standby to plow and sand once the snow, sleet and ice hits. 

Typically, the NCDOT does not pre-treat roads with salt brine if the winter weather is expected to initiate as rain because it would wash away. But if a forecast predicts the weather event could include snow/frozen precipitation or rain, crews will often brine on interstates, primary roads, bridges and overpasses just to be safe.  The safety and storm cleanup benefits of brining those areas should the weather turn out to be snow and frozen precipitation outweighs the loss of the brine if it only rains, since brine costs so little to produce.

NCDOT offers the following safety tips for driving in winter weather:

•           Reduce speed and leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles;

•           Approach bridges and overpasses with extreme caution and do not apply your brakes while on a bridge unless necessary;

•           If you begin to slide, take your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the   brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car;

•           Come to a complete stop or yield the right of way when approaching an intersection in case any vehicles coming from other directions lose control of their vehicles while trying to stop.

•           If you have a cellular phone, take it with you. You can contact the Highway Patrol statewide by calling *HP (*47) or call law enforcement by dialing 911. But please don’t call 911 to check on road conditions. That line must be kept open for emergencies.


The Statewide Transportation Operations Center (STOC) will be posting adverse weather messages on its digital message boards based on information and updates we receive from the National Weather Service. It also has a plan in place for additional staffing should the winter weather necessitate the need.

For real-time travel information at any time, call 511, visit www.ncdot.gov/travel or follow NCDOT on Twitter atwww.ncdot.gov/travel/twitter. Another option is NCDOT Mobile, a phone-friendly version of the NCDOT website.

You can also get emergency information from the N.C. Department of Public Safety at http://readync.org, and download the ReadyNC app to help you prepare for everything from road conditions to severe storms on a daily basis. 

Which Road to Plow First? 
NCDOT’s method in clearing roads statewide

Every year about this time, when the winter weather descends upon North Carolina and blankets our state’s highways, citizens call in and ask, “I need to get to work.  When are you going to plow my road?”  As much as our crews would like to immediately respond to every caller, we have a set snow and ice removal process in place.   

   NCDOT plows the following roads known as bare pavement routes first:

  • Interstates
  • Four-lane divided highways
  • Other routes essential to moving traffic

After bare pavement routes:

  • Secondary roads/streets
  • Neighborhoods

How did the NCDOT determine its priority order?

  •  Connectivity
  • Traffic volume, amount of use
  • Major business avenues and trucking routes
  • Importance to hospitals and other emergency routes

Here’s how we tackle the storm:

The NCDOT works in conjunction with the National Weather Service to ensure to the best of our ability our 3,200 trained employees stay ahead of the storm by pretreating roads with a brine mixture to keep the snow and ice from sticking, then plowing and sanding once the wintry weather hits.

Why brine?  Based on recent winters and long-term projections, the NCDOT presets its budgets in advance for snow and ice removal, as well as pretreating  operations, and since we like to save taxpayers  money, brining is extremely cost effective.  It uses less salt overall, which saves money and is better for cars and the environment.

To treat 1 mile of road: $.15 per gallon of brine v. $14.38 per mile of rock salt (Brine =23% salt + 77% water)

Brining coats roadways better than over treatments

Lowers freezing temperature of water

More effective at keeping snow from refreezing

Buys time – we can brine as much as 48 hours before the storm hits as long as temperatures do not fall below 18 degrees and it is not raining.   In most cases, rain will wash it off.

Interesting NCDOT Storm Fighting Facts:

The NCDOT can store 162,000 tons of salt statewide

We use between 50 – 60-000 tons of sand and salt during a typical winter snow season

1,900 trucks equipped with plows and spreaders

325 front-end loaders and backhoes

450 motor graders

Also outfit pickup trucks with snowplows to clear less-traveled roads

Plowing and brine spreading trucks are not multi-taskers.  It can only do one thing at a time.   If a plow has its bladeup, it’s probably speading sand and salt.

For more information, contact NCDOT communications @919-707-2600