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Dealing with slush on roads

February 8, 2013
The Daily News

Typical of the weather in the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin, it's ever-changing, especially in winter.

One week, temperatures will be below zero. The next week, we'll have freezing rain.

For good measure, there will be snow, snow flurries and blowing snow added to the mix.

As weather conditions change rapidly across Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation is sharing some tips from snow plow drivers to help motorists know when roadways are icing over.

"We teach our crews to look at the slush being thrown by passing vehicles. If slush is thrown to the side of the wheels and splashing, the salt is still working," said Dave Budd, MDOT Southwest Region Maintenance Superintendent.

"If the slush begins to stiffen and is thrown directly behind the wheels, the salt is losing effectiveness and icy conditions may begin to develop," Budd said in a statement.

Many variables come into play when determining when a salt-treated roadway will ice over; humidity, wind speed and direction, the amount and type of precipitation, and the amount of salt that has been put down on the road all have an effect.

Winter maintenance crews say when the temperature drops below 20 degrees, salt takes longer to work and roads refreeze more quickly.

"Once temperatures get down into the teens, the effectiveness of the salt on a busy roadway is really minimized," Budd added.

Drivers are reminded that driving speeds should be based on road conditions and visibility. Posted speed limits are maximum speed guidelines for when driving conditions are optimal.

Keys to Winter Driving

Driving in Michigan can be very challenging during the winter months. Ice, snow, wind and below-freezing temperatures often combine to make winter weather driving a difficult undertaking.

The Michigan Department of Transportation urges motorists to do their part and follow these simple steps when driving in winter weather:

- Always wear a safety belt when in a vehicle, and be sure children are properly buckled as well.

- Slow down when visibility is low and/or when road conditions are snowy or icy. In ice and snow take it slow.

- Give snowplow drivers plenty of room to plow and salt/sand the roads. Snowplows need room to groom.

- Be extra cautious on bridges because they can be icy when roadways are dry.

- Accelerate and brake slowly and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers, especially when merging or changing lanes.

- Don't pump anti-lock brakes.

- Remember, don't text and talk while driving.

Other things to think about while driving in winter weather:

- Treacherous Temps: Once temperatures get down into the teens, salt can be ineffective. This is because salt takes longer to work, and refreezes at a much faster rate when temperatures fall below 20 degrees. As a result, driving on road surfaces that have been salted can be more dangerous than driving on roads that have been plowed, but not salted. When extreme cold temperatures occur, plow drivers often use sand more than salt to provide traction.

- Watch the Slush: Look at the slush being thrown by passing vehicles. If slush is thrown to the side of the wheels and splashing, the salt is still working. If the slush begins to stiffen and is thrown directly behind the wheels, the salt is losing effectiveness and icy conditions may begin to develop.

 
 

 

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