The Norman Transcript

March 4, 2014

Roads could be hazardous this morning

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — March came in like the proverbial lion, and some folks are hoping that means it will go out like a lamb. For now, temperatures are expected to climb as the week continues.

National Weather Service meteorologist Wayne Ruff said today would warm up to 45 or 46 degrees, with a light south wind and mostly sunny skies.

Wednesday will be much the same, Ruff said, with temperatures continuing to warm throughout the week. Thermometers are likely to hit the mid-60s on Friday.

Ruff said there is a slight chance of rain Wednesday and another chance for rain Saturday.

Ruff said it’s too early to predict how March will end or when the last freeze will hit the area, though generally it’s around the first week of April.

Frigid temperatures — along with ice, sleet and snow — made roads hazardous throughout the weekend. Slick roads are likely this morning as well, with temperatures freezing anything that melted Monday. Road crews have worked around the clock to keep streets safe.

“We’ve been out since Saturday evening late,” Norman Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said. “We started our 24-hour rotation then — we knew the weather was turning icy and snowy.”

County officials also brought in road crews over the weekend to pretreat roads and then to blade them after the snowstorm passed.

“We thought it was going to be over with Sunday morning and then we got another round,” District 1 Commissioner Rod Cleveland said of the weekend storm.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation crews cleared state highways and interstates.

Ice came in first, making roads treacherous, but the city received an additional load of salt Friday.

“We got lucky,” O’Leary said. “We got 500 tons of salt.”

The city tries to order as much salt and sand as it needs, but it can only store about 1,500 tons at a time. This winter’s ice put a big dent in the supply. Norman gets its salt from the Hutchison, Kan., salt mines, which distributes to about a five state region.

“This will be an expensive winter for us,” O’Leary said, noting that there was a lot of ice in December and January.

O’Leary said sand is easier to come by, but it’s dirty and must be cleaned up off the streets afterward. The city removes the sand with street sweepers to prevent it from going into the city’s storm drains.

“We’ve been using a lot of salt applications on overpasses and bridges,” O’Leary said. “Today (Monday), as it’s melting, we’re plowing snow and ice off the major arterial streets.”

The county can use sand more liberally in unincorporated areas. Cleveland said his crews mix salt and sand. Still, the weather this weekend carried some surprises.

“From the weather report, it was showing the precipitation would tailor off and end, but then it kept coming and covered the salt and sand with another layer of sleet,” Cleveland said.

Even though the temperatures remained cold, the sunshine Monday combined with warm ground temperatures to melt much of the snow and ice. Crews blading roads cleared most of the arterials in and around Norman, though low temperatures overnight could mean icy spots and treacherous roads this morning.

ODOT recommends staying at least 200 feet behind road-clearing equipment; crews need room to maneuver and can engage plowing or spreading materials without notice.

When roads are potentially slick, stay safe by allowing extra space between vehicles so there is adequate distance for braking in wet and icy conditions. Motorists also should be aware of black ice, which looks wet on the roadway but is actually a thin layer of ice.

Allowing for extra time to reach destinations can result in less stress and the potential for fewer wrecks.

Joy Hampton




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