With winter approaching, highway department is ready


As snow fell on Switzerland County yesterday (Wednesday) morning, Switzerland County Highway Superintendent Edd Cook was out on the county roads, paying close attention and watching for trouble spots.

The snowfall amount wasn’t expected to be heavy, but with a broad band of weather activity covering most of the Midwest, the Switzerland County Highway Department was being careful to monitor the situation.

“I haven’t heard anyone say that this is going to be heavy,” Edd Cook said. “But we’re treating and watching it. We take into consideration the schools, getting the buses home and things like that, so there’s a lot to look at.”

The Switzerland County Highway Department is charged with maintaining the 375 miles of county roads that wind through the county. Edd Cooks says that, of that amount, between 275-300 miles are paved and are treatable by the highway crews.

Those asphalt roads are treated with a combination of salt brine, sand, and cinders – with the sand and cinders also containing salt to help melt the ice. The combination helps the road crews no matter what the temperature is.

The other approximately 100 miles of roadway are gravel, and those must be treated differently when dealing with winter weather.

“With gravel roads, we basically put sand down on the gravel,” Edd Cook said. “If you put salt on a gravel road, it brings up moisture, and that turns the road into mud, which no one wants to happen.”

As for this year’s supply of salt, Edd Cook said that the county made a purchase of salt late in the fall, and it should be enough to get the county through the winter weather season.

“We’re in much better shape in terms of salt that most other counties around,” Edd Cook said. “But we don’t have any control of it. If Mother Nature cooperates, then we should be fine, but if everyone remembers, last year it was March when we got our big snow.”

Edd Cook said that when last year’s March snow was cleared, the county was basically out of salt, but he thinks it will be different this year.

But when severe weather does strike, getting people safely down county roads falls into the hands of the county highway workers – who total 18 in all.

“When we have a full fledged treatment, it takes all 18 guys,” Edd Cook said. “Everyone has their assigned duties – either in the trucks or loading or making salt brine. Everyone works together.”

With the current snow flurries not expected to accumulate, the National Weather Service is pointing at mid-week next week as a time when more snow could be seen in the Switzerland County area.

But, no matter when it comes, the personnel of the Switzerland County Highway Department will be ready for it.