Skip to Content
/ Articles / Community /

PennDOT Winter Storm Tactics

from PennDOT

Nov 15, 2018

Before the Storm
• PennDOT holds statewide Web conferences with department staff, weather experts and officials from PEMA and State Police to discuss upcoming weather and discuss preparations or sharing resources as needed.
• Department crews may pretreat with salt brine, essentially a mix of water and salt, from the backs of anti-icing trucks before frozen precipitation starts to fall.
• Salt brine is NOT a silver bullet and it isn’t appropriate for every storm, but when it’s used it helps prevent
precipitation from bonding to the road and gives the department a jump start on removing ice and snow.
• Crews generally will not pretreat with salt brine when a storm is forecast to start as rain (rain will wash the material away) or when there is enough salt residue from a previous storm.
• PennDOT monitors weather forecasts to gauge when to call crews into action.
• Especially in high traffic areas, PennDOT may stage plows along major routes and interstates so they can quickly begin treating the roadway when precipitation begins.
• Some PennDOT regions use private contractors to supplement its state crews through the whole winter, while some areas supplement their crews based on storm forecasts.

During the Storm
• While snow is falling, roads will NOT be free of ice and snow.
• Why not? If snow is falling at 1 inch per hour, for example, and a truck takes three hours to return to the start of its route, 3 inches of snow has fallen.
• Whether an operator is plowing snow from a roadway depends on the depth or heaviness of snow or slush, severity of the storm and in what stage of the storm the truck is being operated.
• During a storm, plows use the same roads we all travel on. As traffic or precipitation increases, so does the time it takes for a plow to complete its route. If you’re stuck in traffic, so are we.
• This means that if storms hit at rush hour, you should plan extra time for your commute.
• PennDOT provides additional service to areas near schools and other large public gathering places.

• PennDOT plow operators use technology in their trucks to monitor air temperature and road temperature so they can tailor their road treatment on the go.
• The major factors that determine what material will be used on a roadway are temperature and traffic.
• Because salt is most effective when traffic is crushing and spreading it on the road, the lower a road’s traffic volume, the more PennDOT will mix salt with anti-skid or other materials.
• Salt also isn’t a silver bullet – it becomes less effective once temperatures dip below 23-25 degrees.

Higher Traffic Roads
• Whether salt is pre-wetted or mixed with other materials during a storm depends on temperature, precipitation type and a road’s traffic volume.
• A salt/anti-skid mix can be used when road surface temperatures are below 15ºF, as straight salt and salt/ chemical applications are less effective at lower temperatures.
• On higher traffic roadways, PennDOT may also wet or pre-wet road salt with salt brine to jump start the salt’s melting action. But even this tactic is most effective when the pavement temperature is 25 degrees or higher.
• Pre-wetting salt can also help keep salt on the road by reducing bouncing.

Lower Traffic Roads
• On the state’s lowest-traffic roadways, PennDOT will focus its salt/anti-skid usage on areas like hills, bridges, intersections, sharp curves or freezing-prone areas. Because traffic volume is generally too low for salt alone to be effective on these roads, anti-skid will be mixed in to help with traction.
• Anti-icing is generally not performed on low-volume roadways at below 15 degrees because falling snow is generally dryer and usually blows over the roadway surface.

Additional information is available at

We need your support!

Your contribution makes community media possible.

A donation of any size to your nonprofit media organization supports the future of media access in our community - the things you love, and the places you care about, by the people you know.

Live Streaming