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Road crews racing to get snow and ice cleared before temperatures fall

 A Cincinnati-based ODOT crew gets ready to head out on Thursday, Feb. 3.
A Cincinnati-based ODOT crew gets ready to head out on Thursday, Feb. 3.

Freezing rain and sleet are changing into snow, and that's likely to worsen road conditions Thursday night into Friday.

ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning says road crews spent the day trying to keep highways open. "As we get more snow, it's only going to get slower out there. If you have to travel, then please allow a lot of extra time for travel. If you don't have to travel, stay home."

Bruning says it appears a lot of people have heeded that warning. He says traffic levels seemed to be lower than usual Thursday morning.

Road clearing tactics are changing for ODOT crews as the precipitation changes. Bruning says freezing rain is the worst when it comes to clearing highways. "You can't pre-treat ahead of it. You can't plow it, obviously. All you can do is when it starts falling (is) just salt, over and over and over again, because the material that you're putting down is constantly being washed off by the rain," Bruning says. "Certainly, once it changes over to snow, that is a much easier precipitation to deal with because we can just plow it, we can treat the roads."

Bruning says their goal is to keep roads passable, not perfect.

Road crews are now facing another race against the weather. Bruning says they need to get as much snow and ice off the highways before temperatures take a serious dip Friday night.

"Salt starts to become less effective as those pavement temperatures drop below 20. We have to start mixing in other things like calcium chloride. We mix in a product in some places called beet heat, which is made from the vegetable," Bruning says. "We've got another couple of things in our arsenal that we can go to that will help that salt be more effective to lower temperatures."

He says once snow is removed and ice is melted, with very cold temps, the big danger becomes refreeze. He says the best bets are still to drive slowly or stay home.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.