Winter is coming

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Submitted photo
In the event of bad weather, VDOT will be present to clear the roads from snow.

VDOT offers preparation tips for Salem residents

Shawn Nowlin shawn.nowlin@ourvalley.org

To state the obvious, winter is coming. More than a million Southwest Virginia residents could be impacted by the weather over the next three months. Homeowners are encouraged to prepare for winter weather now before temperatures drop significantly.  It is also recommended that people test their car’s battery and make sure there is no corrosion on the terminals.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is a public safety agency that responds to a variety of emergencies, including the removal of snow on the road and interstate.

Jason Bond, who represents the Salem District, on what needs to happen for pretreatment on the roadways to take place, “Pretreatment involves applying chemicals to roads up to 48 hours before a winter storm. This prevents a bond from forming between the pavement and the snow and ice after the storm starts and makes it easier for plows to clear the roadway. Anticipated temperature and type of precipitation at the start of a storm will determine its use.”

He continued, “VDOT will not pretreat when winter storms that start out as rain and transition to ice or snow because the chemical will wash off and not be effective. VDOT focuses most of its pretreatment operations on interstate and primary roads and some high traffic volume secondary routes.”

An emergency kit, according to a VDOT spokesperson, should include a flashlight with batteries, blankets, cell phone chargers, food that requires no cooking and a battery-operated radio. People can winterize their homes by insulating walls and attics in addition to caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows.

“If it’s not a health or safety emergency, I advise people to stay off the roads when it snows. The safest place during a winter storm is indoors. About 70 percent of deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles,” Bond said. “If motorists stay off the roads during a winter storm, transportation workers and public-safety officials can clear roads and respond more quickly to emergency needs.”

Due to the added strain placed because of cold weather, car batteries tend to die in the winter. Should individuals determine that travel is absolutely necessary VDOT has some driving tips: clear snow and ice on a vehicle’s roof, wear a seatbelt at all times and drive smart. Limiting time outdoors, wearing goggles while removing debris and avoiding lifting materials that weigh more than 50 pounds are some additional precautions to consider in regards to lowering the risk of illness.

“Safety and connectivity are key, so roads carrying the most traffic get top priority. VDOT clears interstates and most primary roads (those numbered 1-599) first before working on secondary roads and neighborhood streets (those numbered 600 and above),” said Bond who believes that winter weather can be manageable with proper preparation.

For Cynthia Cruz, 18, winter is an opportunity for her to give back to the community. “There are quite a few seniors that live in my neighborhood. For the past three years, I’ve offered to shovel their driveways for free. I want to do my part in making sure that everyone is safe.”