GEMA/HS Dispatch March 2018 Edition - Page 20

Georgia Department of Transportation keeps state moving during winter weather with back-to-back brining operations By Uyen Le Schneider W hen it rains, it pours. Or in the case of winter weather in Georgia, when it snows, it ices. For the Georgia Department of Transportation, this season has brought an unprecedented number of winter storms. Within the span of weeks, four storms hit the state. GDOT prepares 48-72 hours in advance of every storm — prepping brine, salt, equipment, and personnel. “What has been somewhat of a challenge, or been exhausting on our staff and equipment, has been the number of events and timeline of events,” said Bryan Haines, GDOT director of emergency operations. “We’ve not had much time to recover between storms.” Georgia had an atypical December snowfall that brought more than five inches of snow. Then, on the first day of the new year, while most people were enjoying the day off, Haines and his team were already making crucial decisions to posture statewide response to Southeast Georgia for the forecasted winter storm. The first step, and one of the most paramount in Haines’ decision-making, is staying in constant communication with the National Weather Service and receiving their input on forecasted weather systems. Although there was some uncertainty at this point on how storm systems would develop, Haines and GDOT were already moving brine trucks down south to be in place 18-24 hours ahead of the storm. On Wednesday evening, Jan. 3, Materials and Resources - Statewide • 1,938 employees on-call covering 39,919 lane miles • 54,030 tons of salt • 65,460 tons of gravel • 426 snow removal equipment units (one plow + hopper + truck = one equipment unit) • Capacity to store 550,000 gallons of brine • Can produce 20,000 gallons of brine per hour • GDOT may relocate district resources to the most needed areas during an event 20 Southeast Georgia got hit with a rare winter storm, receiving four to six inches of snow and ice. “We’re used to dealing with hurricanes, not winter weather in south Georgia,” said Jill Nagel, GDOT district 5 (southeast Georgia) communications officer. “A lot of our guys go and assist in other districts when we have winter weather.” What was unprecedented about this event was that for the first time, GDOT crews also went into South Carolina to help its DOT neighbor. Road conditions in South Carolina were causing 20 to 30 mile backups into Georgia. “We were able to go into South Carolina, get ahead of where the traffic queue was and treat out in front of it. Georgia State Troopers were able to help us maneuver the stranded motorists around where we could treat and then we were able to get the traffic flowing,” said Haines. In total, GDOT treated approximately 70 to 80 miles of South Carolina’s roads. In addition to the work done in South Carolina, GDOT crews were working12 hour shifts in Georgia starting Wednesday and they didn’t stop until Saturday. The following Monday, right after that ice event, north Georgia and the Atlanta metro were forecasted to receive over an inch of ice. It was the very same Monday of the National College Football Championships, the first day of the state’s legislative session and President Trump’s visit. GDOT redeployed all state resources back up north to treat roads before the addition of hundreds of thousands of drivers coming into the state. “As soon as I got done making decisions for southeast Georgia, I immediately transitioned that weekend into moving all of the equipment back up to metro Atlanta, filling those trucks, and having those employees and equipment ready,” said Haines. A week later, north, central, and southwest Georgia received another one to three inches of snow, which GDOT also handled to keep the roads cleared and safe. GDOT’s work doesn’t end after a storm. The department constantly procures more brine and calcium to replenish their supplies. The department is also adding two additional salt barns in strategic locations in south Georgia enabling them to get quicker access to the interstates and faster treatment times. “Every storm is a new lesson learned and a new opportunity to improve,” Haines said. Through all this winter’s events combined, GDOT used over 800,000 gallons of brine. To say GDOT has been busy would be an understatement. Rain or shine, snow or ice, they never stop working for the citizens of Georgia. Georgia DOT brining trucks used