UDOT snow removal crews ready to do battle

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 9 2010 11:07 p.m. MST

Transportation Tech 3, CJ Connor shows the controls to a giant snow blower.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Got snow?

State and local transportation agencies got tons of salt, oodles of heavy equipment and a cadre of trained drivers to help you get on your way this morning should today's storm materialize as forecast.

As a storm front gathered to the west, employees at the Utah Department of Transportation's maintenance shed at 1960 S. 500 West readied their tools and weapons Tuesday to do battle with the snow.

Statewide, nearly 500 UDOT snowplow trucks prepared to remove snow from more than 1,800 miles of highway and other state-owned roads such as State Street.

Trucks are loaded with either salt, slightly moistened so it sticks to the road, or a 22 percent brine solution that pretreats ice on roads and buys plow drivers a precious hour or two before a storm deposits significant amounts of snow on Utah highways.

Months of planning and training go into this aspect of the operation, which Curtis Sanchez, statewide equipment safety trainer, says is the fun of what can be a challenging and stressful job.

"This is the fun time. It's kind of a rush. You get in the truck and your adrenalin is pumping the whole time," Sanchez said.

For the next few months, snowplow drivers have to be ready to go with a half-hour's notice. Then, shifts could last up to 14 hours. That means time away from families and the possibility of winter holidays spent behind the plows.

"When I was in the shed, I don't think I ever spent a Christmas at home. I've eaten Thanksgiving dinner here. It wasn't much of a Thanksgiving dinner, it was a Tesoro hotdog. But you make the best of it," Sanchez said.

Jessica Kunzer, spokeswoman for Ski Utah, said Utah ski resorts would welcome new accumulations from Wednesday's storm but she was not aware of any planning to change their opening dates. Most will open closer to Thanksgiving, although Solitude and Brighton are scheduled to open Friday.

Most resorts are optimistic about the coming season because weather patterns suggest above-average precipitation. "Skiers and snowboarders are really passionate people. They're going to make sure they get their ski trip in no matter what," Kunzer said, adding that they may postpone an equipment purchase to save money to add a day of lodging.

"They always figure a way to get their fix in."

e-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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