Although Loudon County has yet to experience icy weather, County Road Superintendent Eddie Simpson’s crew is ready to tackle poor conditions.
Loudon County Highway Department workers on Tuesday began attaching plows to trucks in preparation for snowy weather. Experience tells Simpson that drivers could soon begin seeing slick roads.
“You never know from year to year,” Simpson said. “I don’t know of one time near Thanksgiving out of the seven years I’ve been here that we’ve actually had to salt by Thanksgiving Day, but it’s probably right around normal we’re doing. It’s usually right between Thanksgiving and Christmas break we will start readying the trucks and start putting the parts together — snow plows and all that stuff.”
Each year the highway department prepares with at least 200 tons of salt on hand, Simpson said, and the department currently has 250-300 tons in storage.
Simpson said salt and other related material amounts to about $20,000-$30,000 in his budget.
“There’s no science that goes into it,” Billy Pickel, assistant road superintendent, said. “We pretty much just — we know what it takes from year to year, and we’ve got our bins here designed to hold what it would typically take. ... And we’ve got a contract with salt companies so that if we start looking a little low, weather events bigger than what we were able to project, we’ll start hauling it in. We’re very fortunate here in Loudon County to have the barge terminal because they can bring it right here to the county, and we can go get it.”
Loudon County has 800 miles of roads, which Simpson said also amounts to 1,600 lane miles. Having enough salt is important to keep drivers safe this time of year, he said.
“Another difference is because it’s all up and down, it’s not level, it’s not like the interstates, trying to do the interstate roads or anything like that,” Simpson said. “Everything we have is kind of hazardous for even our trucks to get on and that’s why we want try to keep it as safe as we can for all the residents.”
Simpson and Pickel pay attention to the forecast daily to ensure they are prepared if snowy weather is on the way.
“We look at it every day and especially long range too. We try to make sure that we’ve people on hand because when we have a call-out it’s all hands on deck,” Simpson said. “We don’t leave anybody out. We don’t let a truck go out with one person. Everything has two people in case somebody gets hurt, whatever, because we’ve had some broken legs and stuff like that. ... We know how hazardous it is.”
Up to eight trucks can be put on the road for salting. Ultimately, Simpson said the effort is a “guessing game.”
“... Sometimes east Loudon County will get a lot more snow than the west end of it will,” Simpson said. “So it is kind of a guessing game, but that’s why we feel like we have to go out there and have a look and see. We have 18 employees, so we have people that live down on every part of the county and those people are real good about watching for it too. ... We play it by ear, but Billy and myself go and check out on our normal places it’s normally bad.”