Although it was still uncertain exactly what kind of weather Pulaski County would receive Sunday, area road crews were preparing for anything Friday.
“Are we going to have flooding (from a rain event); or will we have downed trees (from ice)? We really don’t know what we’re going to get, so we’re making plans to be ready for whatever comes,” said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Jason Bond.
He said VDOT is activating tree removal crews in case they’re needed, but whether to pre-treat roads ahead of the storm was still undecided as of Friday afternoon.
“It’s still early for us in the event. We can’t put (pre-treatment chemicals) down if it’s raining because it’ll just wash off,” Bond said. “We’ll have to look at it again (Saturday).”
Besides, he added, “It’s still a mixed bag as to what we might get. Pre-treatment isn’t always the best” action to take. For example, the process works better with snow than with ice.
“Some people have the perception it’ll magically melt everything off the roads, but really what we’re doing is trying to keep (the icy precipitation) from binding to the road so it’s easier to plow. There has to be some melting going on to plow,” said Bond. He stressed that citizens should not be “lulled into a false sense of security” that there will be no slick spots on roads that have been pre-treated.
When there is an ice event, VDOT may only pre-treat bridges and underpasses, according to Bond. These structures are cooler due to the air passing under them and tend to freeze before the rest of the road surface. Regardless of the wintery precipitation received, only primary roads are pre-treated.
He said planning for wintery mix events is difficult so crews just have to “be ready for whatever comes.”
He added, “Icing is definitely the worst case scenario because we can put down some abrasives and some chemicals, but it’s really dependant upon the temperature” to rise above freezing and melt the ice to get much improvement.
Downed trees can be reported to VDOT by calling 1-800-FOR-ROAD (1-800-367-7623). The latest road conditions available can be found online at www.511virginia.org. Call 911 for all emergencies.
With the possibility of ice downing trees and power lines, Appalachian Power Co. is preparing for potential power failures.
Company spokeswoman Teresa Hamilton Hall said contract crews and assessment teams from West Virginia and Tennessee (which are expected to be unaffected by ice) would be staging in Roanoke and Wytheville Saturday.
“Appalachian crews and local contractors in Christiansburg and Roanoke districts will be on alert Sunday and ready to work if needed,” said Hall. “In addition, company crews and assessors in the Charleston, Huntington and Kingsport districts will come to work Monday, packed and ready to travel.”
She said the company also is placing other “mutual assistance partners” on alert in case they are needed.