Snowplows address rush-hour storm

Rush-hour motorists in the early evening Dec. 29, 2017, battle snowy conditions on Interstate 465 on the Indianapolis northeast side. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Snowplows were out in full force in several Indiana counties Friday evening as meteorologists forecasted consistent snowfall for the rush-hour commute and into the night.

More than 200 of Indiana Department of Transportation’s yellow snowplows hit the roads Friday afternoon, and the INDOT central office manager, Scott Manning, said the central and northern districts were prepared to continue running plows in full force through the evening.

“Our southern district will be monitoring conditions and deploy as needed based on conditions,” Manning wrote.

Meanwhile, Friday’s snowstorm was the first snowfall for several drivers for Indianapolis Department of Public Works, as the organization welcomed a large group of new recruits this winter.

“This year, we had some new men and women,” said Warren Stokes, public information officer for Public Works. “This is going to be their first year during the winter with a snowplow. They’ve been training since about October so they’re ready for this.”

“We have a program that we send them through,” added Jamie Cole, a 12-year veteran snowplow driver with Public Works who assists in new-recruit training. “We have our master plow program that every new recruit goes through.”

A snowplow works on an interstate in Indianapolis during the evening rush hour on Dec. 29, 2017. (WISH Photo)

Regardless of experience, Cole said driving a snowplow in rush-hour traffic is difficult.

“I’ve had a few cars come head-on and hit me head-on, just coming through a stoplight not being able to stop,” Cole said. “If they could treat us like we’re a firetruck or an ambulance and kind of move to the side and let us get through and clear that path for them, that would be great.”

Cole explained his daily routine with his truck. It includes more than a dozen checks to make sure he and others are safe. He said when he trains new recruits, he prepares them for roads busy with snow, ice and other drivers.

“We have to be patient with the traffic because traffic is sometimes not that patient with us,” he said. “I know they’re trying to get home.”

“When they’re on the road, especially during the peak traffic hours like rush hour, make sure you give those guys space to do their job,” spokesman Stokes said. “Those trucks are really big and when you’re giving them space it makes the road a lot safer for them as well.”

With the sub-zero temperatures seen around the state earlier this week, the salt and chemical treatments may not be as effective as in normal winter conditions. Public Works asked drivers to be extra aware of roads that could re-freeze tonight, especially on bridges and overpasses.

Public Works said a full shift of 80 drivers took to the road around 11 a.m. Friday, and another 80 will take their place at 11 p.m. Friday night.

“If we get the bursts like they say were going to, we will probably slow down on the salting and be more plowing,” Cole said. “Then we’ll pick up the salting back up and that’s pretty much how we’ll attack it tonight.”