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Municipalities preparing for possible winter weather

State College Borough Operations Manager Eric Brooks shows the salt storage building, which is part of the new service facility, on Oct. 21.
State College Borough Operations Manager Eric Brooks shows the salt storage building, which is part of the new service facility, on Oct. 21. CDT photo

Centre County has already seen its first snowfall of the season, and PennDOT is wasting no time in encouraging motorists to prepare for the potential for winter weather.

In a news release, the state Department of Transportation urged motorists to join the department’s 4,800 operators and 2,200 trucks in preparing for the season.

“PennDOT’s staff and equipment are working hard to be ready for winter’s arrival,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards said in the release, “and drivers are a huge part of our mission to keep roads as safe as possible this winter.

“Motorists should prepare themselves and their vehicles now,” she said.

PennDOT maintains roughly the same number of miles as New York, New Jersey and all of the New England states combined, the release said. This means more than 40,000 miles of state-maintained roadway.

PennDOT focuses on interstates and expressways when winter hits, the release said. The more traffic a road has, the more attention it receives from plows, so the department cautions motorists to expect deeper accumulations on less traveled routes and to adjust for these conditions.

As PennDOT clears the expressways, county motorists lean on their municipality’s public works departments to provide a clear path along local roads. And while winter is still a good two months away, some municipalities have already begun preparing for those snow management tasks.

State College Borough Public Works has already outfitted two of its 12 trucks with salt spreaders in anticipation for last weekend’s brief snowfall, public works Director Mark Whitfield said. Six of the 12 trucks can be outfitted for salt spreading, which can cover borough streets in about two and a half hours.

When it comes to salt, State College is prepared, he said, as the borough is still sitting on about 400 tons of road salt. This comes to about half a year’s supply, he said — State College typically uses about 850 tons covering the borough streets and state highways within the borough.

Bellefonte Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said Bellefonte has plenty of salt on hand and will be working over the next 30 days to fill its storage bins.

“Last winter was exceptionally difficult for snow and ice,” he said. “Even a light dusting usually requires trucks to go out and salt. That can use almost as much salt as a 5-inch snowstorm.”

Public Works employees have been going over all the borough’s trucks, he said, making sure everything is in working order and ready to go. While it’s mainly general maintenance for now, the work will pick up closer to Thanksgiving as the possibility of winter weather increases.

Philipsburg is playing the weather by ear for now, Borough Manager Joel Watson said. Trucks are serviced over the summer — fittings checked, hoses replaced and plows recut — to be ready should the weather turn.

A truck can be fitted with a plow and salt spreader in as little as 15 minutes, he said. All four trucks can be ready in under an hour to clear the borough streets.

PennDOT offered suggestions for motorists planning to make any winter trips, saying motorists should carry and emergency kit of nonperishable food and water, first aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, a cellphone charger and a snow shovel, according to the release. Motorists can also check the conditions of PennDOT roadways by visiting www.511PA.com.

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