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StormTRACK Weather: The science behind preparing the roads for wintry weather

Winter is coming! Ice on roadways is probably one of the most serious weather hazards–and causes hundreds of serious injuries and tragic deaths every year. As winter approaches, temperatures will begin dropping, and you know what else is coming – icy roads, snow, black ice and freezing rain events.

In anticipation of winter weather, Texas Department of Transportation will spray a wet mixture of two types of salt — sodium chloride and magnesium chloride — along with water to make “salt brine”. This method is called anti-icing, or pre-wetting, and is a technique used as a preventative measure before extreme weather arrives.

According to TXTDOT, North and West Texas experience the heaviest snowfalls, icy roads and bridge conditions. Therefore crews prepare for the winter weather days in advance by salting the roads and altering the freezing point of water. TXDOT uses snowplows, salt spreaders, and liquid de-icing rigs to assist with de-icing of the roadways and bridges.

Meteorologist Jason Laney with the National Weather Service El Paso said there’s science behind keeping the roads safe during winter weather events, “salt causes a freezing point depression, which means it lowers the freezing point of water.”

Water normally freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but when you add salt, it can drop as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit but, sea water with 3.5% salt by the volume freezes at a lower temp of 28 degrees Fahrenheit. “In contrast the brine treatment that TXDOT and NMDOT uses are 23.3% salt, the salt water has its lowest freezing point of -6 degrees Fahrenheit. Crews treat the roads based on weather conditions.” Laney said.

You can reduce your risk of road hazards by staying up to date on weather conditions with the StormTRACK Weather team.

Winter Driving Tips:

▪ Maintain your vehicle in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.

▪ Ensure the headlights and taillights are functioning properly.

▪ Accelerate slowly, drive slowly, and observe traffic signs and alerts.

▪ Approach bridges shaded spots and turn slowly


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