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ODOT, city plows set back by freezing temperatures

ODOT Snow plow trucks.
Ohio Department of Transportation

Although the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Columbus Department of Public Service have been running their snow plowing teams for 24 hours a day, the weather patterns have them retracing thoroughfares.

“We kind of hit the three-headed monster of sleet and freezing rain and then snow and now plunging temperatures. So, we have a big task in front of us but we’re ready for it and we’ll be on until we can make all of these roads passable,” said Randy Borntrager, with the city’s department of public service.

The city’s 50 “snow warriors” started with plowing and deicing measures on main roads, like High and Broad streets and Morse Road, and then turned to what they call “residential connectors,” Borntrager said. These are the streets that lead into neighborhoods, but don’t include smaller streets like cul-de-sacs, he said.

But, when black ice started forming, the crews returned their focus to main streets, again, he said. The crews are expected to turn their attention back to the residential connectors later today.

“We’re doing 24 hours, 12 hour shifts — 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. — until we can make these roads passable. Our standard is not perfect, it’s passable. And right now, we’re not there with all of our roadways. We have almost 6,000 lane miles of roads and over 240 square miles.”

With 200 crews in the Central Ohio region, ODOT is handling removal and deicing on interstates, U.S. routes and state routes in the area that are not in municipalities, said spokeswoman Breanna Badanes. With the freezing temperatures, it may take some time to fully clear the roadways.

“Hopefully, we expect, operations to end sometime this weekend but I know we still have a lot of clean up work to do for the remainder of today to get that snow and ice up off the road and knowing that temperatures are going to drop overnight tonight, which then increases that chance for refreeze, any wet or remaining snow on the road is going to freeze,” she said.

To combat that ice, crews are working around the clock to add more salt and liquid deicers to the roads, she said.

The officials remind drivers, the region is still under a snow emergency, so people should avoid driving if possible. If on the road, leave room for plow drivers, at least two car lengths, they say.

Badane said keeping 10 to 15 mph under the speed limit should help drivers get to where they are going more safely, though some conditions may require drivers to move even more slowly.

Borntrager said parking on city streets should be avoided when possible.

“As we get through this weekend, if you could please, park as close to the curb as possible. Or if you can get those cars off the roadway entirely into driveways or off-street parking, please do. The last thing we want is for one of our trucks to come down and it not be able to service a roadway because of some constrained space,” he said.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.