Mint Hill residents may get to take a snow day Monday as a powerful winter storm has set its sights on the Carolinas over the coming days.
But public works employees had a snow day a few weeks ago. That was when the department had a test run to prepare for winter weather. Workers attached plows to trucks, made sure all the vehicles and equipment were in working order, and went over plans to plow and sand streets.
As the department’s backup generator hummed while being tested today, it was again all hands on deck as the town prepares for a winter storm that could dump several inches of snow and then some ice on the town Saturday into Sunday.
Steve Frey, engineer and public works director, said the town has been tracking the storm since the start of the week and began preparations in earnest on Dec. 6. The town has six vehicles that can push snow, and two of those trucks can also spread a mix of sand and salt.
“All the plows have been mounted. We are now going through a debugging process,” Frey said this morning. “Typical game for us. We do more with less. We don’t buy a new plow every year. Some of these plows are 10, 15 years old and they may get a little faded but they work just fine.”
Chris Cochrane, public works operations manager, said the department is ready for no matter what Mother Nature brings to the region.
“We always have a day where we put everything on and make sure everything works after everything has been sitting for several months,” Cochrane said. “Then we get everybody in and go through our plans, what they will be responsible for when they are in the trucks. We go over a lot of safety operations. We did that a couple of weeks ago.”
Frey said the town uses a tier system to clear snow and ice with major arteries getting top priority. Staff will work 12-hour shifts until the roads are cleared.
“We also plow DOT roads,” Frey said. “They (DOT) are here, too, but we can hit them more frequently because we have a smaller footprint.”
Late on Dec. 6, contract crews in Mecklenburg County started pre-treating interstates with a brine solution that is a mixture of water and salt. The Monroe Expressway in Union County was also treated. That operation started with 20 brine trucks and will be increasing to 68 trucks over the weekend. NCDOT said just under 100 trucks will be on the roads by Sunday night to help plow away any accumulating snow.
NCDOT crews in Mecklenburg County started the brine process on other roadways this morning, using 10 state trucks. An additional 23 contract trucks will be available over the weekend to help clear primary roads.
In other areas of Division 10, including Union County, state crews started brining operations this morning and will continue until all bare pavement routes are treated.
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper was set to declare a state of emergency in the state later today and he has activated the National Guard to help in storm recovery. Some areas of the state could see up to two feet of snow and Cooper urged residents to stay off roads if possible when the storm hits.
“The more cars we have on the road, the tougher it will be for our DOT crews to treat and clear those roadways,” Cooper said. “If you absolutely must travel, clear your car of snow and ice before you drive, slow down and leave room between you and other vehicles.”