The Farmer’s Almanac is forecasting a “Hibernation Zone” across the Midwest for the winter season.
Though it’s still too early to tell what the winter will bring, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is preparing for the worst. The department will hold its annual statewide winter operations drill on Thursday, Oct. 20. With high turnover rates and many positions still open, driver training on this day is more critical than ever, MoDOT said.
“We’re facing a critical shortage of qualified plow operators as we go into the winter season,” said Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT chief safety and operations officer. “This drill gives MoDOT the opportunity to train our new snowplow operators on their designated routes so they are aware of curbs and raised islands that might be hidden when the snow or ice starts to fall.”
Despite the department’s best efforts, it has not made progress filling the winter operations vacancies.
“With years of high turnover, we are nearly 30% below the staffing we need in order to cover more than one shift in a statewide storm,” said MoDOT director Patrick McKenna. “If a widespread winter storm lasts more than one 12-hour shift, we will not have enough employees to fill all the trucks on the second shift and therefore it will take longer to clear the roads. Delays could be significant and will impact all regions of the state.”
During Thursday’s drill, motorists will notice increased numbers of MoDOT vehicles on state routes. In rural areas, crews will deploy after 8 a.m. In urban areas, the drill will not begin until after 9 a.m. The exercise should be completed by 3 p.m.
MoDOT employees will react to a simulated forecast of significant snow for the entire state. The department’s emergency operations centers will be activated and maintenance employees will be deployed to their trucks. Emergency communications systems will also be tested.
“Safety is the cornerstone of everything we do at MoDOT,” said Allmeroth. “The drill ensures that proper equipment, plowing techniques and safety measures are used by every MoDOT employee.” In addition, every piece of equipment – every truck, motor grader, snow blower and tractor – is inspected and calibrated to conserve materials and operate efficiently and safely, Allmeroth said.
For the most up-to-date information on road conditions in any winter storm, motorists are urged to use the Traveler Information Map at traveler.modot.org or available as a smart phone app on the Apple Store or Google Play.
How big is MoDOT’s winter operation?
MoDOT spent more than $53 million on winter operations last year and used over 151,000 tons of salt, 2.4 million gallons of salt brine and 454,000 gallons of beet juice.