01/31/14 — Roads clearing

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Roads clearing

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on January 31, 2014 1:46 PM

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Ricky McKinney uses a plow to scrape slush off of Meadow Road in Goldsboro Thursday afternoon.

With temperatures expected to reach the 40s today and highs in the 60s over the weekend, the remains of Tuesday night's winter storm are quickly disappearing -- but not before Wayne County residents returning to work this morning still had a few icy patches to watch out for.

North Carolina Department of Transportation and Goldsboro Public Works snowplows continued to clear roads this morning as NCDOT crews worked through the night again and Goldsboro employees began at 6:30 a.m.

Goldsboro Public Works Director Jose Martinez explained that the sleet before the snow caused a much thicker base layer of ice than expected, which has caused problems for plowing and extended what would otherwise be a straight forward situation.

"The plows ride on a bracket with a spring," Martinez said. "It rides on top of the hard surface scraping away the snow. When it hits something hard it just folds up and goes above it. What this means is that when we have sleet underneath the snow we scrape away the snow but the ice is still there."

Martinez said the only way to get the ice up is to salt the road and allow it to turn to slush before plowing that away and starting the process over again.

Add to that the cold overnight temperatures, and, he said, the salt has not been able to keep up with the ice freezing on the roads, making overnight plowing useless.

"We expected eight to 10 inches of snow and we got three. That precipitation still came down, just as sleet. So we had a much thicker layer of ice than we were expecting. In that case about the only thing to do is to salt and sand and plow the slush away and let Mother Nature help out," he said.

Martinez said if only snow would have come down Tuesday night the roads would have been mostly clear by Wednesday afternoon.

The city's snow plan, which Martinez said was followed, is to plow first the tier one streets, such as John and Slocumb streets, as well as a section of Elm and the east to west streets making up the interior of Goldsboro.

Once those roads are clear, then work begins on the exterior edge of Goldsboro.

John Waters ventured out for the first time Thursday with his family to get lunch and run some errands around the city.

"This is our first time out," he said. "I guess we had a little cabin fever going on. We thought after two days we'd be all right on the roads. The main roads are good but the secondary roads are still pretty icy."

For Clinton Thomas, Thursday was a work day like any other over at Sam's Club.

"I had Wednesday off and I worked today, so I've been out but it's their first time out," he said of his wife Megan and his 1-year-old son Finley. "I only left if I had to though over the past couple of days. I spun this car in a 360 once.

"She asked me about going out yesterday but I told her I didn't think the roads were good enough yet."

NCDOT Wayne County Maintenance Supervisor Luther Thompson said that in the county plowing is moving ahead, but that the thick ice has caused problems for NCDOT trucks too.

"It's like an onion," Thompson said. "We salt and it melts and we peel off a layer, but we have to salt and wait for it to melt again before going back for the next layer. All we can do is skim the top layer off of the sheet of ice."

The state's established snow plan calls for plows to clear primary roads such as U.S. 70, I-795 and other four-lane highways before moving on to roads such as Berkeley Boulevard, Spence Avenue and Ash Street.

After the primary roads are clear, then the secondary roads are worked on.

Plowing began on secondary roads Thursday afternoon, but Thompson said if less ice had accumulated plows could have been clearing many of those roads a day earlier.

"Prior to the weather we'll go ahead and salt and brine all of our primary roads and some secondary roads," Thompson said. "When the snow comes in, we break it down into sections and work to keep four lanes open before moving on to secondary roads."

Thompson said if the weather stays warm, all plowing will likely be finished today.

"I think it went really well," Thompson said "We're checking icy spots and it all fell right into plan."

One thing Thompson said he gets calls about is people asking why a plow truck may be driving by with its plow up over unplowed roads.

"We can't have them running to their areas with the plows down the whole way using up all of their salt on the way," Thompson said. "They are going to their assigned sections and need to get there."