Hancock County prepared for winter weather

With the first snowfall of the season mostly melted, Hancock County road crews say they’re ready for whatever winter may bring.

“We’re in good shape,” said Steve Shuman, street department supervisor for the city of Chester.

Shuman said the city has 150 tons of salt in store. The salt is mixed with an anti-skid material to help with traction.

The city has two plow-and-spreader trucks, with a third available as backup on days when the snowfall is particularly heavy, Shuman said.

Chester crews are responsible for clearing an estimated 25 miles of city streets, not including U.S. Route 30 and state Route 2.

“If we get a chance, we’ll push snow back to the curbs (on Carolina Avenue),” Shuman said.

In New Cumberland, city officials have 125 tons of salt on order for the season, with about 25 tons sitting in the salt bay, Mayor Linda McNeil said.

“We’re all set. We just received it last week,” she said, noting that the salt has a de-icing additive that prevents it from hardening in storage.

McNeil said the city’s road crew tries to strike a balance between clearing the roads and maintaining access to properties.

“In keeping the roads clear, residents sometimes have issues with driveways being blocked,” she said.

Unlike Ohio and Pennsylvania, where counties and townships maintain their own roads, the task of snow removal in West Virginia falls primarily on city street departments and the state Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways.

In Hancock County, the snow-removal fleet is maintained at the Division of Highways’ garage on state Route 8, which also is used for road salt storage. The fleet is responsible for snow removal on all state routes and county roads in Hancock County’s unincorporated areas, as well as state routes running through the cities of Chester, New Cumberland and Weirton.

The state has budgeted an estimated $555,000 for the snow removal and ice control season in Hancock County, which runs from Nov. 1 through March 31, said Carrie Bly, spokeswoman for the Division of Highways.

Hancock County Highway Administrator Jim Witherow said the county garage has a store of 1,300 tons of salt and 1,000 tons of cinders.

“For the first loads on the main highways, we use straight salt. Each storm’s a bit different. If we determine that it’s needed, we mix cinders in just for traction,” he said.

The garage’s fleet of two tandem trucks, four single-axle trucks and two one-ton trucks handles the main highways (Routes 2, 8 and 30) first, followed by secondary roads, which get a 50/50 mix, and chip-and-seal roads, which get straight cinders, Witherow said.

The county garage also uses flake calcium when the temperatures drop below 20 degrees, he said.

“We mix it as we’re loading it. It helps the salt to react quicker and works at a lower temperature. Salt is good until about 20 degrees, and then it loses its melting capabilities,” Witherow said.

Another substance that some West Virginia counties, including Hancock County, are using is a brine liquid that can be applied to road surfaces prior to the accumulation of snow. Brine is a mix of salt and water that enhances the effectiveness of salt, Bly said.

“Where we are using it, we’re having success because it cuts down on the amount of salt we’re using and the time that our people have to be out there,” Bly said. “As soon as the snow hits the road, it starts to melt, so you don’t have to plow as much.”

New Cumberland officials learned about brine use at a snow and ice control workshop in October.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)