The Kentucky. Transportation Cabinet’s Highway District 12 office in Pikeville reports officials there are ready to “kick ice” this winter. 

“The skill and concentration of Highway District 12’s team of snowplow operators make them a force to match the winter weather,” a press release said. 

“Our men and women have spent months getting ready for winter,” said Mary Westfall-Holbrook, D12 chief district engineer. “The salt domes are full; liquid calcium chloride tanks are topped off; the men have made thousands of gallons of salt brine.”

The district released its ranking of state roads in Floyd and surrounding counties that are part of the  it’s “priority system” for snow and ice removal. 

“Highway District 12 covers 2,145 miles of roadway. Roadway miles are different than lane miles. Counting four-lane roads and three-lane sections, D12 snowfighters are responsible for more than 4,550 lane miles of pavement,” the press release said. 

Westfall-Holbrook explained that the Kentucky. Transportation Cabinet has a system that dictates the order in which roads are cleared during a winter storm. 

“Roads are designated A, B, or C according to traffic counts, how many homes and businesses are served by each highway,” she said. “We also take into account the main routes that first responders need to access other roads when emergencies happen, people need to get to a hospital, there is a fire, or some other life-threatening situation.”

Snow and Ice Priority Maps are available by county on the Transportation Cabinet’s website, under the “Maintenance.” Some roads are split; in other words, part of the road may be an A route and other parts a B route.

The Cabinet reported that the district has more than 22,000 tons of rock salt in domes at 10 maintenance facilities located in all seven counties served by D12. The district also has nearly 93,000 gallons of calcium chloride, which is used to treat winter roads and nearly 52,000 gallons of salt brine. 

District 12 uses 89 trucks with plows owned by the district, plus 13 contract trucks available on call. 

“This equipment takes a beating,” said Darold Slone, the district’s snow and ice coordinator. “Think about it: we run these machines in the worst conditions around the clock, changing operators every 16 hours. The drivers get an eight-hour break between shifts. The snowplows do not. We have to make sure each one is in the best possible condition before the first snowflake falls.”

District 12 partners with the National Weather Service office in Jackson and its 24-hour emergency operations center, located at the District 12 headquarters in Pikeville, maintains contact with the superintendents at each maintenance facility and the equipment garage during snow storms. The snow and ice command center at the district office keeps the Transportation Operations Center in Frankfort advised of road conditions throughout the district.

The district’s public information officer, Sara George, reported there are nearly 200 people at Highway District 12 who work snow and ice events. 

“Everyone has a specific responsibility,” she said. “I am always amazed, every year, how everyone works together. I believe the people who live and travel in our seven counties have the best of the best. The determination, dedication, experience, and skills of our people are outstanding. They truly care about doing a good job, an excellent job. When drivers partner with us, drive safely, and make sure their vehicle is winter ready, we can all get where we need to go safely, without wrecks or injuries. After all, that is the ultimate goal: to travel safely, to take care of each other on the roadways, and to survive winter storms with zero wrecks, injuries, or fatalities.”

The agency offers the following winter driving safety tips: 

• Check your vehicle before you start a trip, especially your tire pressure and battery. Clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections; wash all surfaces with battery terminal cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water. Have battery checked by a professional to ensure it is strong enough to face cold weather.

• Clean your lights, front and back. Walk around and make sure all the lights are working. Check your windshield washer fluid. Make sure your windshield wipers work properly. Check your tire pressure; it affects your traction on icy, slick pavement.  Slow down. You cannot drive in a safe manner wet or icy pavement at the same speed you use on dry pavement.

• Buckle up and make sure anyone with you does the same. Make sure children are in proper child safety seats.      

• Make sure you have plenty of gas.

• Stay alert. Your main responsibility is to keep your eyes on the road. Get rid of any distractions. Put away your cell phone; using it while driving is dangerous. Do not fiddle with the heater or the radio. Fix those things before you start. Don’t try to hold a cup or something to eat while driving. Keep both hands on the steering wheel.

• Do not pass a snowplow. Give them room to work. Stay a few car lengths behind the plow; it’s the safest place you can be.

• On a four- or six-lane road, if all lanes are snow-covered, drive slowly in the inside lane (the lane next to the median). Snow is plowed from left to right, from the passing lane toward the shoulder.

• Treat a non-working traffic signal as a four-way stop.

• Drive as though your life depends on it — because it does.

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