Winter weather hits here hard

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Forecasters from the National Weather Service predicted that Switzerland County would be directly in the path of some strong winter weather last Thursday — and those predictions came true, with winter storms and snow forcing the cancellation of many activities; and Switzerland County schools were closed on Friday.

Winter weather can be a distraction for many residents, but for the workers in the Switzerland County Highway Department, stormy winter weather means long hours pushing snow off of the roadways so that motorists can get through safely.

Edd Cook, highway superintendent, said that county highway workers logged an average of 20 hours of overtime last week trying to get the roadways under control, and with snow falling on Wednesday morning of this week, workers were seeing little rest.

“Right now it’s snowing, and all of the forecasts said it was supposed to rain,” Edd Cook said Wednesday morning. “We are monitoring the situation very closely because of the children being in school. We are staying in close contact with school officials.”

Edd Cook said that such cooperation is vital because school officials don’t want to send their school buses out onto the roadways until the highway departments have had the opportunity to begin cleaning them off.

“We want to be on the roads before the buses get there,” Edd Cook said. “We don’t want to put anyone in any danger.”

With most of the county roads in good shape after the last snowfall, Edd Cook said that county highway workers spent Tuesday doing a pretreatment on county roads with a salt brine solution that is designed to melt early snows and keep the roadways clear.

As of Wednesday morning, highway workers were inspecting different roadways to see how the brine solution was working.

But when all is said and done — sometimes it becomes a combination of experience and luck.

“I’m looking at a computer the same as everyone else,” Edd Cook said. “Forecasts on Wednesday said that Louisville was going to get rain and Cincinnati was going to get snow. We’re in the middle, so no one can tell what’s going to happen here. We ended up getting the snow, that’s par for the course when you’re along the river — you just don’t know.”

Once the decisions are made and the weather hits, the truly amazing part begins.

There are approximately 370 miles of county roads in Switzerland County that highway workers here are responsible for. Edd Cook said that all of those roads are cleared by nine trucks; and that there are about 20 workers who cover all of the operations necessary to keep the roads clear — from drivers to mechanics to workers who load the trucks and other support operations.

“I think we got pretty lucky last week because we were able to get the snow off of the roads pretty quickly,” Edd Cook said. “When the temperatures dropped we saw some ice patches, but people just need to remember that it’s winter and that roads can be pretty unpredictable this time of the year.”