Crews work rotating shifts to treat Wichita roads

(Phil Anderson)
Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 10:02 AM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The City of Wichita says its crews have been working non-stop to treat weather-impacted roads. Monday marked the city’s third day in a row of some type of winter precipitation.

Interim Assistant Director of Public Works, Ben Nelson, said crews were put on standby at midnight on Saturday morning. They were activated later that morning for the first round of snow. Everyone was called back in on Sunday for more precipitation, and they have been working continuously since on rotating 12-hour shifts.

The city deployed all 60 of its salt/sand trucks. Because of the very low temperatures and lack of sun, Nelson said the fear is that the road conditions will continue to deteriorate. Normal road salt (sodium chloride) becomes less effective at 10 - 15 degrees – so crews will substitute with calcium chloride which works better at lower temperatures.

“It makes it much more challenging because the salt doesn’t perform as effectively,” said Nelson. “Salt becomes more effective when people are driving on it and people are moving the snow pack to break it up along with the salt. It becomes a lot more difficult particularly before morning commutes.”

Wichita crews began doubling their rate of treatment, starting with the heavier Monday morning. They will increase the application rate of 50/50 salt sand to get more material on the road. They city will treat arterial roads and school routes but not neighborhood streets.

“Neighborhood streets will have the most ice and snow buildup but it’s a tradeoff because there’s not nearly the traffic volume or speed of travel on other roads. Neighborhood streets and normal trouble spots - approaching intersections, stopping and starting, curves, hills, elevated roadways and bridges are the first to freeze up as well,” said Nelson.

He said there are no concerns about the city’s salt and sand supplies. The city has three salt domes that are about half full right now with another 25% load coming for each. The primary sites will be at 75% capacity, but the city also has two reserves which are far fuller.

“We have more salt than we need for this storm and that’s been very helpful because we’re not worrying about getting re-supply, just converting what’s in our salt reserve and getting it out to the trucks,” said Nelson.

He said the trucks will continue treating the roads. They can make it over the entire street network in 8 to 10 hours, meaning they can over the area two to two-and-a-half times in a day. Nelson said once the precipitation stops the trucks will be more targeted in what they treat the roads and focus on spot treatment.

As for what drivers can do to stay safe, Nelson said be sure to keep your windshield clear.

“It’s difficult to keep ice clear from your windshield. Try to drive safely and scrape your windows before you hit the roadways.”

Winter Weather Update February 8, 2021

Winter Weather Update February 8, 2021

Posted by City of Wichita- Government on Monday, February 8, 2021

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