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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > November 1996 > Lessons from Blizzard of '96 Heeded for Winter of '97
November 1996Publication Number: FHWA-SA-96-022

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Lessons from Blizzard of '96 Heeded for Winter of '97

Hundreds of winter maintenance personnel from highway agencies east of the Mississippi River began gearing up for winter at 2 days of events in the Washington, D.C., area in September. They learned firsthand from highway agency staff, consultants, and vendors about strategies and equipment that can mean victory when battling winter storms.

The Eastern Snowbelt Cities Conference brought more than 250 people together to learn how cities and States hit hard by snow and ice year in and year out manage to keep roads open and safe. The highlight of the conference was a presentation by John Ardizone, head of the Bureau of Operations of the New York City Department of Sanitation. Ardizone spoke on the nuts-and-bolts of fleet mobilization, including how to assign equipment, how to plan work schedules, and how to equip trash trucks and other publicly owned vehicles with snowplows to make them part of the winter maintenance fleet. According to Joe Zelinka of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which co-sponsored the conference with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Ardizone's presentation drew the most questions and accolades. "It had lots of good information for both the plow operators and the maintenance managers," he said.

The next day, more than 600 people braved torrential rains to attend the first-ever Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo, which was sponsored by FHWA. The symposium was designed to provide eastern States with a venue for the latest on winter maintenance, in much the same way as do the annual winter maintenance conferences that FHWA and the American Public Works Association hold in Colorado. The turnout would have been even higher, but maintenance personnel in many States were busy clearing roads that had been flooded. "There was a good mix of city, county, and State highway personnel-everyone from equipment operators to directors of public works departments," said Deborah Vocke of FHWA, who helped to organize the event.

The event began with opening remarks by FHWA executive director Tony Kane, followed by presentations on broad winter maintenance topics.

During the lunch break, attendees saw demonstrations of equipment used to apply deicing materials and to fill the potholes that seem to arrive after every winter. About 70 vendors were on hand throughout the day with the latest winter maintenance equipment, from plows to road weather information systems (RWIS), and several jurisdictions displayed their winter maintenance vehicles.

The afternoon sessions addressed more specific winter maintenance topics, including anti-icing strategies and RWIS operations, both of which were technologies evaluated and advanced under the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP).

To cap off the event, FHWA gave away 10 snowplow scoops, a device developed under SHRP. When attached to a plow blade, the scoop makes plowing operations more efficient.

The Maryland Department of Transportation has already agreed to host the 1997 Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo.

For more information on the Easter Winter Road Maintenance Symposium, contact Deborah Vocke at FHWA (telephone: 202-366-4855; fax: 202-366-7909). For information on SHRP winter maintenance technologies, contact Salim Nassif at FHWA, 202-366-1557 (fax: 202-366-9981; email: salim.nassif@fhwa.dot.gov).

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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