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Ready or not, Old Man Winter is on His way: PennDOT is prepared

October 24, 2012

(Photo by Larry McGuire of The Punxsutawney Spirit)

FAIRVIEW — Are you ready for some winter? Not really? As always, PennDOT District 10.0 Maintenance Department has your back, as it held its annual inspection Wednesday morning.

All of the snow plows, salt and anti-skid are ready to go in case Old Man Winter returns with a vengeance following last season's balmy winter conditions, said Josh Clinger, the new Jefferson County maintenance manager, during PennDOT's annual inspection of the winter snow removal equipment that was held Wednesday at the Jefferson County Maintenance Garage in Fairview.

He said that every year, all of the snow removal equipment is brought in and cleaned and painted prior to inspection.

Clinger said PennDOT's material stockpiles are also packed with salt and anti-skid throughout the county.

Between all of the stockpiles and the maintenance garage, PennDOT has 7,900 tons of salt and 13,000 tons of anti-skid on hand.

The stockpiles are located in Ringgold, Reynoldsville, Brookville and Brockway, Clinger said, adding that typically, the plow trucks spread a blend of salt and anti-skid except on Interstate 80, where they use straight salt.

He said Jefferson County was the recipient of two new International dump trucks with aluminum beds that were purchased through competitive bidding.

Clinger said there aren't any steel bed trucks at all in Jefferson County.

"They've all been replaced with aluminum beds, because the salt would rust out the steel beds all the time," he said.

Clinger said Jefferson County has five single-axle snow plow trucks and 21 tandem axles.

"We also have four zero velocity salt spreaders that are used primarily on the interstate, because they can control which direction the material is thrown and keep it from hitting the other vehicles on the roadway," he said.

Clinger said that Jefferson County has 560 state highway miles, 26 of which are on I-80.

"In addition to the trucks, Jefferson County also has a snowblower for the really heavy snows and two graders, one of which has a wing plow used to clear some of the more rural roads, especially those that drift badly," Clinger said, adding that PennDOT will begin the two winter shifts Nov. 19 — 4 a.m. to noon and noon to 8 p.m. — with the overtime hours from 8 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 4 a.m.

"The overnight radio operator will begin working Nov. 1, which allows snow storm coverage 24/7," he said.

Clinger said that if anyone experiences poor traveling conditions on any of PennDOT's highways, they should call the county maintenance office at 938-6300.

He also said there are a few changes on some of the newer equipment.

"Some of the new innovations are that all of the new trucks are coming equipped with LED emergency lights on the front and the back, replacing the rotating beacon style lights that are on the older trucks," Clinger said.

He said motorists are able to see the new trucks much better with the LED lights.

Steve Phillips of Anita has been driving snow plow for PennDOT for 17 years and has been witness to the many changes that have occurred.

"When I first started, the plows were all hydraulic, and now some of the trucks have various computerized systems for spreading salt and anti-skid," Phillips said, adding that all of the spreaders are computerized now.

Phillips is driving a 2001 Mack tandem dump truck on his Route through the Knox Dale area this year.

"Plowing snow is something I enjoy doing," Phillips said. "I've been driving truck, basically, since 1971, from tractor-trailers to snow plows. This is the best job I've ever had.

"It gets a little hectic sometimes. One year, I was on I-80, and the whiteouts can get pretty fierce, and the trucks don't slow down even in a white out. That's the reason I got off of I-80 and switched to a rural route instead," Phillips said. This is his first year in this truck, as he did the Hormtown section prior to Knox Dale.

Phillips said each truck is designated for a specific route.

Clinger said there are three spare trucks that PennDOT keeps at the key stockpiles, especially for I-80, which have just the regular salt spreaders.

Whether the winter season is a harsh one, or the area sees another calm winter similar to last year's, PennDOT will be prepared to take care of Jefferson County's roads.

(Editor’s note: This piece is one in a series of “Familiar Faces Friday” features to be written by Spirit reporter...
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