Waiting game: Road crews on standby for winter weather

Despite uncertainties in the forecast, area road crews were busy Monday preparing bridges and overpasses for another round of frozen precipitation expected to develop Monday night and continue into Tuesday.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Sean Clark said that this storm was particularly difficult to forecast because of uncertainties over how much moisture would be available and when precipitation would begin.

“Right now we’re looking at the Pine Bluff area receiving between one and two inches of snow overnight Monday and through a good portion of Tuesday morning,” Clark said late Monday. “Ice will be a problem for areas from Monticello south and east over the same time frame, with a tenth to a quarter of an inch of ice expected. That area will be just a little warmer than areas further north, which will result in the precipitation being mostly freezing rain there.”

Clark said the latter part of the week should see temperatures climb into the 50s.

“It looks like we’ll have warmer-than-average temperatures into next week,” Clark said.

Randy Ort with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department said Monday that crews were preparing for the storm on Southeast Arkansas highways.

“Our District 2 crews are putting down salt brine in anticipation of the bad weather,” Ort said. “Now, this product doesn’t keep ice from forming but instead keeps it from sticking, which allows us to clear the roadways quicker.”

“We’re not going to relax,” Ort said. “As long as precipitation is in the forecast we’re going to be ready.”

Jefferson County Judge Dutch King said his crews are also ready for the next round of snow and ice.

“With this string of storms that we’ve had over the past week our crews were out five nights in a row,” King said Monday. “Our trucks are full and the equipment is ready to go. Because the bridges and overpasses are the worst places in this kind of weather we hit them first and then go down the line.”

King said his crews put down sand ahead of time if it looks as if ice will be the primary hazard.

“We try to stay ahead of the game,” King said. “We’re hoping for the best.”

Rickey Rhoden, assistant manager of the City of Pine Bluff Road Department, said his crews are also ready to battle the elements.

“Our salt trucks are ready and we have crews on standby,” Rhoden said Monday. “The bridges and overpasses will be sanded. If particular intersections get slippery we will put some sand down.”

Rhoden said that in the event that a storm puts down a significant snowfall, he has two graders fitted with rubber plow blades that can open up roadways.