WHEN forecasters start using the s-word – snow – or other terms like wintry mix, Ocean County officials say the County road crews, buildings and grounds and other departments are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws its way.
“Certainly it’s early in the season but we know the weather can be fickle,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Road Department. “With drops in the temperature expected and some forecasters talking about a wintry mix this weekend, we want our citizens to know Ocean County is well prepared for winter weather – whenever it gets here and whatever form it comes in.”
For instance, the Ocean County Road Department and Bridge Departments can mobilize a fleet of more than 200 trucks and other vehicles and about 175 employees to salt and clear roads when the weather turns bad.
Crews spend their time readying salt spreaders and making sure enough plows are attached to trucks.
Snow clearing usually first entails brining the 1,600 plus lane miles of county roads by spreading a mixture of road salt and water.
“Brine is a cost-effective way of keeping snow from piling up on the roads,” said county Road Supervisor J. Thomas Curcio. “Coating the road surface with brine before the snow starts falling makes it easier to plow later.”
At about 8 or 9 cents a gallon, it’s also much cheaper than liquid calcium.
The county mixes brine at three 10,000-gallon tanks located at garages in Plumsted, Toms River and Stafford townships.
Six tanker trucks deliver the mixture. The largest truck, a 5,500-gallon tractor trailer, can cover Route 539 in brine from Plumsted to Tuckerton and back, Curcio said.
While brine is an excellent option for storms where forecasts call for the precipitation to begin as snow, it doesn’t work for storms that begin as rain and later change to snow.
“The rain washes it away very quickly,” Curcio said.
If enough snow falls to warrant plowing, the first of the county roads to be cleared are the 500 series, which includes such main roads as Hooper Avenue in Toms River Township, and Route 571, which travels through Toms River Township to Jackson Township. In Southern Ocean County, those roads include Route 539.
“We start with these main roads and work our way to the secondary roads,” Curcio said.
Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said the Road Department is also responsible for clearing all the county parking lots including the vocational-technical centers, the resource centers, Transportation Department, and libraries.
The Road Department is assisted by other county departments including Solid Waste Management, Buildings and Grounds and Parks and Recreation.
“It’s a cooperative effort on the part of the County to make certain our residents are safe,” Vicari said. “The cooperation makes for a much smoother and efficient operation.”
Vicari added that Buildings and Grounds is responsible for clearing snow and ice from the County’s 135 government buildings.
“Our citizens expect to be able to access County government no matter what the weather,” Vicari said. “We do our best to clear snow and ice quickly in order to allow the public access to our buildings.”
Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety, said now also is a good time for the county’s residents to prepare for the upcoming winter season.
“While we have had mild days, it’s never too soon to prepare for the approaching winter,” Kelly said. “From winterizing our cars to our homes, having safety kits, a fresh supply of batteries for flashlights and radios along with other essentials, being prepared makes a lot of sense and saves a lot of time and headaches when a storm does hit.”