IDOT crews use variety of tools to battle snow - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

IDOT crews use variety of tools to battle snow

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The Lawless family of Morris, Illinois was trying to beat the snow out late Thursday afternoon.

"We're going to try to get out of here in the next hour and a half," Heidi Lawless said before the storm hit.

The Iowa Department of Transportation had been working to help make the roads safer for travelers for more than 24 hours before the snow moved in.

Fighting snow with each storm provides unique challenges.

"Every winter storm in Iowa is a little bit different," said Cathy Cutler, transportation planner with the DOT.

It's the reason why technology plays such an important role in the DOT's fight against snow.

With this storm, crews have been paying particularly close attention to road temperatures in deciding how to pre-treat the roads.

"Road temperatures are a really critical piece and that helps us address whether we're going to add brine or the pre-wetting solution to the pavement," Cutler said.

Thousands of sensors built into the pavement provide real-time readings of road temperatures.

In this storm's case no rain ahead of time combined with temperatures being warmer than the previous winter storm allowed crews to pre-wet roads with a brine solution.

"The temperatures predicted are quite a bit higher, so really combination of brine application and higher temperatures is really going to help us out."

Officials say their work ahead of the storm will help to prevent ice from accumulating on the roads.

Something the Lawless family is depending on for their trip home.

"You're always concerned with the road situation. It can be treacherous. We've definitely seen it back up to where there's semis off in the ditch, cars off the ditch, so yeah, we'll be taking it nice and easy," Heidi Lawless said.

The DOT is also using social media in this latest snow event.  On Twitter, you can follow @IowaDOT and @StatewideIA511.  The DOT is monitoring the hashtag #iatraffic.  If you like to share photos using your smartphone, officials say to turn the geotagging feature on.  The DOT will use all this information to direct resources to problem areas.

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