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County keeps eye on weather with satellite

January 26, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

The director of the Washington County Highway Department tracked Tuesday's blustery winter storm from a computer in his office.

Ted Wolford watched as snowfall estimates went from 2 inches, to 3, and climbed to 5 inches, to 8 inches, and beyond. "The last I read was 10 to 18 inches" he said.

The highway department is one of three government agencies in Washington County with a satellite weather-tracking program from Data Transmission Network Corporation, Wolford said.

The satellite feed provides updates every 15 minutes, and will be upgraded next month to provide the information at five-minute intervals.

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Snow did not begin to fall in Washington County Tuesday until after 5:30 a.m., when some employees had already left their homes for their 7 a.m. shift, Wolford said.

The county kept clearing roads until 3 p.m. Wednesday. The only problems occurred Tuesday evening, when one plow slid off Wishard Road and another went off Rockdale Road.

Wolford said the county has 32 plow trucks, each with a different route. Each truck weighs about 35,000 pounds.

There are also 10 pickup trucks with plows. These are driven by supervisors and are used to get where large trucks can't. The county also has agreements with 15 contractors with pickup or dump trucks.

For most roads, the county uses a one-to-one mix of salt for melting, and fingernail-sized pieces of limestone for traction, Wolford said. Salt alone is used for cul-de-sacs.

A 6,000-ton supply of salt and stone will be enough to treat roads during about three or four major storms, Wolford said. If freezing rain falls, the supply could be exhausted in one storm.

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