Edinburg residency increases capacity with new unit
By Candace Sipos -- email@example.com
WHITE POST -- At the beginning of his 30-year career with the Virginia Department of Transportation, George Wetzel remembers the notoriously difficult job being even harder.
Once, he worked for 27 hours straight plowing roads.
He has been jeered by people who want to see his truck headed in their direction, and he admits to his profession being the target of many jokes.
But he says that doesn't bother him, and he enjoys the unpredictability of the job.
"You're always doing something different," he said.
Wetzel, 57, is among hundreds of plow drivers who head out to local streets and roads during storms, sometimes before the first snowflake or raindrop falls.
Transportation workers start pre-treating the roads up to 48 hours before a storm's predicted arrival, according to Stacy Sager, maintenance operations manager for the Edinburg Residency, which covers Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties.
The Edinburg Residency is one of three in the 11-county Staunton District, which has a snow removal budget of more than $10.6 million this season. The total snow removal budget for the state is nearly $126 million.
Snow removal will be easier starting in January, as the residency's Camp 7 Storage Facility will have a new storage unit to hold about 1,000 tons of salt.
"It's adding to our storage capacity to help us through some of those longer-lasting storms," Sager said during a press conference Tuesday. "It's easily accessible for several area headquarters to come here to get salt if needed."
"This is really a time-saver for us," said Sandy Myers, public relations manager for the Staunton District. She added that VDOT's goal is to make one pass through all roads within 48 hours after a storm ends, a goal that is often met, she said.
Standing in front of the new storage building and several of the almost 250 pieces of equipment used by district personnel, Sager drew attention to his short sleeves.
"I want to extend the summertime as long as we can to forgo this winter weather," he said. "Every day that we don't have snow, we put another mark on the calendar and that's one step closer to spring."
While VDOT officials hope for a light winter, they prepare for the worst. According to Myers, there were only five days out of the entire winter season last year that required no snow removal anywhere in the state.
In addition to more than 2,200 trucks, motor graders and other motorized equipment owned by VDOT, the state hires almost 5,300 pieces of equipment and another 534 pieces from Turnkey Asset Maintenance Services.
The department spends roughly $11 million per day on a major snow or ice storm that affects all nine districts in the state. The agency is responsible for all state-maintained roads, but cities such as Winchester clear their own streets.
VDOT workers first plow interstate highways, most primary roads, which are numbered 1 through 599, and secondary roads, numbered 600 and up, if they connect localities, fire stations, schools, military posts, hospitals, major employment sites and other important public spots. During extended storms, other secondary roads and residential streets are treated, according to VDOT literature.
The state relies on a network of 77 weather sensors in roadways and bridges and 16 mobile video data platforms to identify the location of freezing roads.
VDOT encourages motorists to stay off the roads during winter storms if possible, and to have an emergency supply kit in their work offices or cars in case they need to stay in either place for an extended period of time.