When Snow Drifts

By Rachel Martin

December 28, 2012 Updated Dec 28, 2012 at 12:12 AM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – Fort Wayne may have only gotten three inches of snow, but on the outskirts of Allen County it was a different story. In the southern parts of Allen County snow crews are dealing with something crews may not have had to worry about in city—wind.

“We can get a few inches of snow and it’ll blow back and forth across the road and look like six to 10 inches of snow,” said Ben Ridenour, Supervisor of the South Division of the Allen County Highway Department.

Ridenour says areas in the southern part of the county are more flat and rural with not much to help block the wind as in Fort Wayne.

"People in the City of Fort Wayne don't realize what it's like out here when it gets windy. And when you're driving in the dark you can't see, and it gets a little hairy out here,” he said.

Hal Williams has been a driver for the Highway Department for 15 years. He says wind can be his worst enemy.

“You got two inches of snow and you go down a road, the wind's blowing, you can come back around the other side and not look like you touched it,” he said. “That’s the bad thing about being out in the country, it’s not like in the city where you’ve got everything blocking the wind.”

Ridenour and Williams say sometimes they must drive only 10-15 mph when there’s drifting snow. They say the wind can white-out a windshield for a good five to six seconds, and sometimes crews can slide off the roads and end up in a ditch. “You just drive slower and remember which road you’re on,” said Williams.

In windy conditions, Ridenour says crews will not spread salt, because it will blow away or get covered up. “Usually what you do is just plow the snow off until the wind dies down,” he said, and then they will lay down salt.

Other than the wind, Williams says the biggest challenge he faces while plowing is other cars on the roads.

“You always got to look out for traffic,” he said, and advised drivers, “don’t get up on the back of the truck because it’s not the safest place to be. We have signs on the back that say ‘stay back 100 ft.’ but you don’t even want to get that close. You could end up with a sandblasted vehicle.”

Williams says drivers shouldn’t attempt to go around the salt trucks either.

In snow storms, South Division crews plow the "hot roads,” or the roads most traveled, first. Ridenour says those roads include Old U.S. 24, Dawkins Rd., Tillman Rd., Minnich Rd., Airport Expressway, and several roads around the GM Plant. Then crews tackle the secondary roads, like county roads and a couple subdivisions.

For last two days, 15 trucks weighing 40-thousand pounds hit the roads plowing and spreading salt working more than 12-hours straight. Ridenour says crews came in at 4:30 Wednesday morning and worked until 7:30 p.m. On Thursday crews got off around 3:30 p.m.

Between Wednesday and Thursday, Ridenour says the South Division used $90,000 worth of salt.

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