Newland – On a foggy, 61-degree October morning in the mountains, crews with the N.C. Department of Transportation are preparing for snow.
“When it does start snowing, we don’t want to be here in the yard with our equipment broken down,” says Jerry Combs, NCDOT’s Avery County Maintenance Engineer.
This month, his crews and NCDOT maintenance employees in counties across the mountains schedule a “snow day”, when plows are put through the paces, and tire chains are stowed in their places.
Drivers run their routes, and no detail is overlooked. “Sometimes, it’s as simple as fixing a light or tightening a hose,” explains Combs. “This day of preparation is very important to our operation.”
Avery County has one of the earliest “snow days” in the state, for good reason. For the last two years, there’s been measurable snowfall here on Halloween. “We also make sure we’re stocked up with salt and sand, since our season starts early, and we are often still treating icy patches into May,” adds Combs.
In addition to improving travel conditions for people who live and work in the mountains, Combs and his crews have the responsibility for clearing the way for visitors drawn in by falling flakes. Avery County is home to two ski areas, Sugar Mountain and Ski Beech. “Tourism is important. We want to welcome those visitors to our area with safe roads.”