12/26/2013 3:00:00 PM County Highway workers: long hours for your safety
The snow and ice from the recent winter storms that hit Switzerland County and other areas of the state have gone away, and that gives the hard working people of the Switzerland County Highway Department a chance to rest and catch their breath.
Because, when the snow was falling, there was only time to work.
"I can't tell you how many hours everyone worked," Switzerland County Highway Superintendent Chris Clerkin said. "We were out for the first big storm, and didn't have much time before the second one came."
There are 16 employees of the Switzerland County Highway Department. Those employees use nine plow trucks, three in each district. All of them are on call when the snow and ice hits.
Chris Clerkin said that the primary means of fighting the snow and ice remains spreading salt and cinders. He estimated that the department used about 300 tons of salt during these recent storms.
"We still have the brine, but if it's rainy before, we won't use the brine because it will get washed away," Chris Clerkin said. "So in a case like we had the last time, where the rain came first, we couldn't use the brine, so salt and cinders were the primary."
The county has approximately 400 miles of roads that the highway department is responsible for. Of that only about 60 miles of gravel roads remain.
Those gravel roads get different attention.
"You can't put salt on a gravel road," Chris Clerkin said. "It just eats the bottom out of it. With gravel roads we just grade it off and throw some cinders on it for traction and hope that the sunlight reacts to the black (cinders) and melts it off."
The Indiana Department of Transportation handles the state roads when the weather hits, so State Roads 56, 156, 129, and 250 are covered by state workers and are not included in the 400 miles that the county workers cover.
So with the snow gone for now, and heavy rains moving into the area, one might think that it's down time for the highway department.
"With all the rain, we're probably going to work on that," Chris Clerkin said. "We're probably going to have some wash outs and stuff with all the rain, so we'll take care of that so the roads are safe for everyone."