Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A slice of KDOT life: fighting frozen fog

This time of year, KDOT crews are busy trying to stay ahead of the weather.
Here’s a snapshot of a recent battle against frozen fog.

Christy DeSantis, Equipment Operator, back in the Hutchinson shop after spraying brine in advance of frozen fog.

It’s Friday morning, Jan. 24, at the District Five offices in Hutchinson, and supervisors see that the forecast calls for frozen fog that night and into the next morning. Extreme humidity, left by a barrage of rain and snow, is about to meet freezing temperatures.

So across much of south central Kansas, District Five crews set out to lay down a layer of brine – saltwater – a melting agent to help keep an icy glaze from forming.

They focus on what KDOT crews call “the criticals” -- the bridge decks that tend to freeze faster because they are not insulated by the ground. And the curves, crossovers and 
turnarounds -- where angling tires are more apt to lose traction on slick spots.

Dave Alexander, Equipment Operator Senior, on a brine run on K-96 between Hutchinson and Wichita.

So that morning, in just one part of the multi-county effort, two KDOT trucks and their drivers work in tandem to spray brine in both directions on K-96 between Hutchinson and Wichita.

The frozen-fog fighters: Dave Alexander, Equipment Operator Senior, with about 20 years of service to KDOT, and Christy DeSantis, Equipment Operator, with about two years of experience.

They each drive a big orange truck with flashing lights, one with a 2,000-gallon brine tank, the other with 1,600 gallons. She takes the inside lane. He, the outside. She goes ahead. He stays behind. Traffic passes in between.

Here and there, they stop and turn to catch the crossover and turnaround lanes.
Using controls in their toasty cabs, they spray brine intermittently as they roll along.

In Alexander’s truck, a monitor shows the air temperature, 33 degrees, and road temperature, 39. It’s around 11 a.m. All is calm. They keep working methodically.

You can see dull-white parallel lines, long ribbons down the highway, where the brine nozzles have sprayed directly down.

It’s all part of an effort to keep motorists from spinning out.

The crews do what they can.

The rest is up to Mother Nature – and the motorists.

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