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ELLICOTT, NY (WNY News Now) – With the first significant lake effect snow storm of the season in the Jamestown area set to arrive Wednesday, New York State’s DOT is preparing their fleet to keep the roads safe for drivers.
“So what we are doing is, first of all, our staff is being trained year round. So we’re training our operators, we are tuning up all of our equipment, we’re making sure our salt barns are full. We’re trying to get the word out to the public that a storm is predicted to come and when that happens, we prefer people stay at home if possible. The less traffic on the state highways obviously the easier it is for us to try to keep those free of snow and ice and make it safer for those who do have to travel,” says Engineer and Public Information Officer for the NYS Department of Transportation Susan Surdej.
Collaborating with the National Weather Service and New York State Police, officials have plans in place to divert traffic if roadways like Interstate-86 become impassable.
“We also have emergency gates that will come down on your major expressways, the on and off ramps, so that we can control traffic if we need to close a stretch of highway so that we can better clear it if it’s not safe,” explains Surdej.
Over the winter months, the DOT hires extra plow drivers to help maintain the highway. Those 18 and up with a CDL license are encouraged to apply.
“We are staffed adequately, I wanna stress that we are ready for whatever mother nature may bring us this weekend. We’re gonna do our best. However, we do like to pad our numbers over the winter. We all know winter is not a short season in WNY, it can extend for months and months and months so we can’t burn out our same staff. So we like to bring on additional people so that we can spread the work amongst many,” says Surdej.
While plow drivers receive extensive training, DOT officials need help to keep the roads clear and safe for those traversing the storm.
“New York State has one person in the plows. So that person is driving, they’re dispensing the salt, and they’re operating the wings. So these are highly trained specialists that are driving these snow plows and that’s why we always take the opportunity to remind the traveling public, you need to be courteous when you encounter a snow plow,” reminds Surdej.
Furthermore, it is not safe to pass a plow, drivers should give space, and that the safest place to drive is behind a snow plow. additional space should be given to tow plows, that clear two lanes at once.
Being prepared while driving in the winter is also crucial by stocking your car with necessities like warm clothes, phone chargers, food and water, and other emergency items. Servicing your car before winter is also encouraged.
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