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VDOT Mobilizes 4,000 Snow Plows Across Northern Virginia for Winter Storm 'Titan'

VDOT has spent $126 million "so far" on its snow budget for Northern Virginia this season, double the amount of last year's $63 million.

VDOT is preparing Sunday for yet another winter storm to hit Northern Virginia; the agency has spent double its snow budget this winter. VDOT photo
VDOT is preparing Sunday for yet another winter storm to hit Northern Virginia; the agency has spent double its snow budget this winter. VDOT photo
The Virginia Department of Transportation will be "fully mobilized" for a winter storm heading to Northern Virginia by midnight Sunday, according to VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris.

Northern Virginia is under a National Weather Service Winter Storm Warning from midnight Sunday to 6 p.m. Monday with 8 to 12 inches of snow expected across the region.

"Fully mobilized" for VDOT means "we'll be bringing in every bit of equipment we have," Morris said. That will be somewhere around 4,000 salt trucks and plow drivers working throughout Northern Virginia. Contractors have been called in well ahead of time, she said, to load their trucks with sand, salt and other snow-battling concoctions.

It's been a winter season like no other and the Virginia Department of Transportation's budget for snow removal in Northern Virginia this season is proof: They've spent double — $126 million, compared to last year's $63 million — so far this year, Morris said.

The snowplow drivers — "well over 90 percent" of them — are contractors, Morris said. They work 12-hour shifts. "They've earned their pay this year," she said. They "pre-stage" in area subdivision parking lots, prepared to hit the roads.

VDOT uses forecasts from the National Weather Service, and also a company called Meridian, an "in-house" meteorologist. "We hold conference calls with them, they provide information on exactly what's going to happen," she said. "We always plan for the worst. We're going to bring out everything we've got for a storm like this obviously."

The difference with the coming storm Sunday night: With rain coming ahead of freezing rain, sleet and snow, roads are impossible to pre-treat, Morris noted. "Normally we would be pretreating today, but we can't because it's going to start as rain." Any treatment on the roads would get washed away. Trucks will get out on the roads as soon as the rain stops, she said.

In Northern Virginia, VDOT takes care of 17,000 lane miles across the region in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. "We don't do the secondary streets in Arlington and the cities and towns take care of themselves," she noted. Most secondary roads get sand and plowing. On high-traveled roads like the interstates, VDOT uses combinations of salt and liquid magnesium.

How are supplies? "We're monitoring our salt, we should be fine for this storm, but we're keeping a watch on how we use it," she said. "Every winter is completely different, but this winter has been unprecedented. This will be a record year in terms of money spent."

In Virginia, the commonwealth "picks up the tab," Morris said. "It's unusual; in most states, it's the counties that take care of the roads."

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