2019 JAN FEB DOWN COUNTRY ROADS MAGAZINE DCR Jan.Feb.2019 web - Page 29

Dr.­Matthew­Bunkers,­the­science­and­operations­officer, and­Susan­Sanders,­warning­coordination­meteorologist,­list the­“then­and­now”­improvements:­internet-based­communi- cations,­ cell­ phones,­ satellite­ imagery,­ computer­ modeling, lightning­detection,­Doppler­radar,­more­automated­and­in-per- son­surface­observations­plus­decades­of­increasingly­sophis- ticated­research.­Yes,­they­still­send­up­weather­balloons,­twice daily,­just­like­their­counterparts­70­years­ago.­The­balloons­are a­proven­and­affordable­way­to­gather­weather­data­from­the surface­up­to­60,000­ft. When­the­winds­kick­up­and­the­snow­gets­really­deep,­op- erators­at­the­S.D.­Department­of­Highways­can­roll­out­their “fire­trucks.”­They­don’t­squirt­water­or­foam,­but­Todd­Sea- man,­regional­engineer,­and­Barry­Bruce,­equipment­shop­fore- man,­use­the­fire­equipment­analogy­to­describe­their­$200,000 400-horsepower,­6x6­rigs­that­are­dedicated­to­clearing­inter- state­highways­and­major­state­roads.­Big­rotary­snow­blowers usually­come­from­federal­surplus­for­around­$40,000. With­flexibility­to­mix­and­match­equipment­and­move­gear around­the­state­to­aid­other­highway­maintenance­regions, Todd­explains­the­state­basically­has­two­levels­of­snow­re- sponse.­Smaller­storms­are­answered­with­trucks­fitted­with plows­and­side-mount­wings­plus­side­plus­salt-spreading­gear. Big­blizzards­put­the­“fire­trucks”­on­the­road.­As­conditions dictate,­the­big­rigs­can­be­fitted­with­V-plows­for­busting­deep drifts.­ Truck-mounted­ rotary­ plows­ and­ rotary­ blowers mounted­on­big­front-end­loaders­can­dig­their­way­through clogged­roadways,­especially­beneath­highway­overpasses. Better­communications­capability­and­decades­of­experience since­1949­also­have­resulted­in­more­cooperation­and­training for­snow­removal­crews­at­every­level­of­government.­When required,­the­governor­can­activate­the­Emergency­Operations Center­in­Pierre­to­coordinate­a­multi-level­response,­including requests­for­resources­from­adjacent­states. In­1949,­hundreds­of­clumsy­bulldozers­with­no­weather protection­for­operators­finally­broke­through­the­big­drifts. Today,­plow­drivers­can­take­off­their­jackets­when­they­climb into­a­cab.­Powerful­diesel­engines­—­tire­chains­when­neces- sary­—­radio­gear,­computer­screens,­cell­phones­and­front- and­rear-facing­cameras­make­them­almost­invincible.­Experi- ence­also­plays­an­important­role.­Storm­response­protocols help­managers­determine­when­it­is­time­to­pull­equipment­and wait­out­the­storm. Grim­as­the­blizzards­were,­jokes­grew­from­shared­experi- ences­and­were­passed­along­with­mail,­medicine­and­news. A­rancher­walked­to­a­neighbor’s­place­to­discover­his­friend carrying­ a­ shovel­ out­ to­ the­ windmill,­ a­ 25-footer­ with­ its blades­spinning­just­above­an­impressive­drift. “What­are­you­doing,”­the­visitor­asked. “I­can­hear­the­pump­squeaking,”­the­owner­answered,­mat- ter-of-factly.­“It­needs­a­shot­of­oil.” At­another­place,­a­farmer­told­his­town­friends­by­telephone that­provisions­had­run­out,­but­the­family­was­surviving­on egg­sandwiches. “Sandwiches?”­the­town­dweller­inquired.­“You­said­your cupboards­were­bare.­You­don’t­have­any­bread.” “Don’t­worry.­­We­fixed­that­right­away,”­replied­the­farmer. “We­fry­two­hard­and­one­soft.” DOWN COUNTRY ROADS 29