Despite Snow Treatment, Central Va. Roads Could Freeze

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

January 21, 2014

Roads have remained pretty clear throughout Central Virginia as the winter storm passed through Tuesday, but the traffic troubles might not be over yet.

Among the worst driving conditions occurred Tuesday morning along Interstate 64 toward Afton Mountain. Visibility on the roads was extremely poor.

Salt and sand trucks, among other equipment, were stationed at overlooks and rest areas along the interstate to respond to any issues as they came up.

In Downtown Charlottesville, public works already pre-treated the roads with a brine solution.

"That just pre-treats those roads and gets them ready for any snowfall so there's less of a chance of it sticking to the roads," Charlottesville spokeswoman Miriam Dickler said.

The city makes its own brine solution, creating a mixture of water and 23 percent of salt.

By afternoon, the roads were just wet.

"If you put down rock salt before a snow event, traffic will actually move that salt around," Dickler said. "So it isn't as effective because it doesn't stay where you put it. Brine stays where it goes."

The rock salt is more effective during actual snowfall. Crews were out along Interstate 64 spraying the roads with sand and salt to provide more traction.

But even after the final flakes fall, the troubles could continue.

Wet roads should be a concern for drivers over the next couple days. Lower temperatures mean the wet roads won't dry up.

"When it gets cold and roads haven't dried completely, there's always the chance of freezing and some black ice," Dickler said.

Salt and brines are only effective in temperatures above 15 degrees. Over the coming days, the overnight lows are expected to dip below that, so the city's public works department adds a chemical to the brine that helps the treatment become more effective.

"It reduces that freezing temperature by quite a bit," Dickler said.

The city said its crews will be out on the roads throughout the day and night to make sure they are clear.


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