Winter driving season is upon us. Two recent winter storms have given Otoe County road crews plenty of opportunities to hone their snow-removal skills.
‘We have already been out with motor graders this winter more than the past three winters combined,” said Otoe County Highway Superintendent Jon Brinkman
According to Brinkman, the county has 30 miles of hard-surface roads and 775 miles of rock roads that must be cleared of snow following a storm.
Brinkman said that the county does not have the equipment to pretreat the hard-surface roads ahead of a storm, and that plow trucks are deployed as soon as the snowfall stops.
In the event of a significant winter storm, Brinkman said the plow trucks may be on the roads before the snow stops falling so crews can keep up with the storm.
After the roads are cleared, road crews put down a salt/sand mix to prevent refreeze and provide traction, said Brinkman.
In terms of the rock roads, Brinkman said the county uses its 12 motor graders to remove snow if the total snowfall is 5 inches or more, or if there is enough wind to create significant drifts.
Brinkman said road crews work first on the county’s main roads, then the school bus routes. Crews then branch out as needed after those routes are clear.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation is responsible for keeping the state highways after a snowstorm.
District 2 Maintenance Superintendent Jim Laughlin said that crews are called in about two hours ahead of a storm  to begin deploying state equipment, including plow trucks and 1-ton trucks.
Ideally, crews have already assessed the state highways for defects that won’t be apparent to drivers if they are hidden by snow, and crews may elect to pre-treat certain areas with salt or salt brine.
After the storm has passed, NDOT crews clean highway shoulders and ramps, turn lanes, maintenance crossovers and storm drains, said Laughlin.
Crews also empty and clean the plow trucks and begin servicing any equipment that may have been damaged during the storm.
Finally, NDOT crews begin preparing for the next storm in addition to conducting routine maintenance and repair projects, said Laughlin.