LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As people prepare for colder temperatures, winter weather is also on the mind of the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
ARDOT’s Winter Weather Strike Team executed a statewide emergency preparedness drill Tuesday.
The drill was all about getting equipment fired up and ready for ice or snow. Tim Coyde is normally behind the wheel of a paint truck, but in winter he’s making a line in the snow, running his snowplow route Tuesday from Little Rock to Morrilton.
“I know you’ll see us on a bright sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, but what we’re trying to do is get our operators comfortable with the equipment again,” Coyde said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone gets their hands on, and maybe teach up the new guys, as well as inspect our routes to see if anything has changed over the following year.”
From checking equipment, computers and the communication chain, everything got a thorough pass. ARDOT State Maintenance Engineer Deric Wyatt said the annual drill only became statewide a few years ago and has expanded every year since.
“Across the state, we’ve got well probably over 1,000 people involved in the exercise today,” Wyatt said. “We try to prepare for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to winter weather because you can predict it all day long, but you don’t know what will happen until it falls out of the sky.”
In 2023, there is plenty new to the state’s response. Some pieces are in place and others will be soon. The second-largest salt house in the state is under construction in North Little Rock and its completion is expected by Christmas.
Other upgrades include more one-ton pick-up plows, brighter lights on the snowplows, and even forward-facing cameras so the plows can be monitored back at their headquarters. Each check is preventing dreams of a White Christmas from becoming a nightmare for drivers.
“It helps us by helping you,” Coyde said.
The IDrive Arkansas winter weather map launches Wednesday and will continue operation through March. Each snowplow and other fleet vehicles can update road conditions, so it is the best place to get the latest information before driving.