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High Country Roads Winter 2013-14 Preparations

Last Updated on October 14, 2013 5:47 pm

*Audio feed of the story below*

Another High Country winter is just about upon us. And while the thoughts of motorist are probably far away from temperatures in the 30s, 20, teens and below, officials that oversee winter snow removal are once again ready for Old Man Winter. Not only are these experienced officials on top of what could happen each winter, the material and crews are ready to go too.

Watauga County

5,000 tons of salt is in inventory for county roads according to Kevin Whittington the DOT Maintenance Engineer for Watauga. 15,000 gallons of salt brine is also in storage tanks and a combined 29 trucks (both NCDOT trucks and contracted trucks) with inbox spreaders & snow plows will take on the task of keeping roads as clear as possible.

Whittington adds that 4 motor-graders, 1 snow blower, 2 front end loaders and 3 push trucks are also available as needed. On Wednesday October 9 DOT for Watauga conducted their “snow day”. Along with reviewing NCDOT Snow/Ice Policies & Procedures, crews calibrated all of the truck spreaders and all the drivers ran their snow routes.


In Boone beets will once again help beat winter road issues, at least in part.

Blake Brown, Public Works Director for Boone, says that beet juice greatly expands the efforts to keep streets safer. The beet juice is bought in loads of 4,500 gallons and will be mixed with salt brine at a 70%/30% brine to juice ratio. Using the mixture allows melting as snow falls, and gives DOT crews more time to get on their routes to apply the dry salt and slag.

Beet juice with salt brine can be applied at about half the rate of salt brine by its self. Salt brine alone is applied at 40-60 gallons per mile, however using the 70/30 blend it can be applied at 20-30 gallons per mile. Salt brine will melt down to 10 degrees but the beet juice added will melt down to -20 degrees.

Another big advantage is the beet juice mix will stay on the road up to 72 hours after application compared to 24 to 48 hours for the salt brine. With the beet juice mix the corrosion factor also lowers by 76%, according to Brown. The main culprit in corrosion is caused by the dust off just the brine mix when it dries.

This winter season Boone will be pre-wetting the dry salt and slag, with the juice, to help keep the dry material to stay on the pavement. By applying dry material by its self the lose is almost 40% to bouncing off pavement to the shoulder of the road. Boone began using beet juice for the first time in the winter of 2011 and was one of the first towns in North Carolina to do so.

Boone has about 300 tons of salt on hand along with a purchase order for 1,200 tons. 500 tons of slag (a very fine gravel material) is on hand and 10,000 more tons is on order. Public Works mixes salt to slag, 2 parts slag to 1 part salt, and makes brine as needed out of the salt they have. “When we start making brine we keep 10,000 gallons on hand”, adds Brown.

The Boone Public Works Department maintains 43 miles of road or 86 lane miles.

Avery County

Avery generally starts the winter season with approximately 3,000 tons of salt stockpiled and usually uses around 5,000 for the entire winter according to Jerry Combs the Avery County DOT Maintenance Manager.

Combs notes a common problem in treating roads in the High Country, “the problem with pre-treating with brine is that most of our events start out as rain and it washes the brine from the road before it ever starts to snow”. Avery will have approximately 5,000 gallons of brine on hand for the winter.

A point that Combs also brought up was the possible use of calcium chloride. Calcium Chloride was widely used across the High Country at one point, and was combined with salt to increase the strength of both products. It has not been used as much in several years due to the cost and it's very corrosive to vehicles. Avery County still has about 3,000 gallons of calcium chloride on hand.

“All of this is pretty much what we start each winter with” added Combs. “We also mix our salt with sand or screenings for traction this is mostly on secondary paved roads that have north banks or in curves. We have about 5,000 tons of that on hand also”.

Below is a breakdown of winter weather equipment and supplies each county throughout Division 11 has available, as well as the number of miles of roads each is responsible for clearing. Information from NCDOT as of Nov 11, 2013.


– 455 miles

– 16 NCDOT plows, 1 contract plow

– 4 NCDOT motor graders, 3 contract motor graders

– 800 tons of salt stored


– 805 miles

– 17 NCDOT plows, 9 contract plows

– 7 NCDOT motor graders, 7 contract motor graders

– 2,500 tons of salt stored


– 337 miles

– 13 NCDOT plows, 8 contract plows

– 5 motor graders, 2 contract motor graders

– 6,000 tons of salt stored


– 692 miles

– 13 NCDOT plows, 10 contract plows

– 2 motor graders, 7 motor graders

– 1,950 tons of salt available


– 1,138 miles

– 34 NCDOT plows, 14 contract trucks

– 5 NCDOT motor graders

– 2,200 tons of salt


– 573 miles

– 20 NCDOT plows, 12 contract plows

– 4 NCDOT motor graders, 2 contract grader

– 6,000 tons of salt stored


– 1,329 miles

– 44 NCDOT plows, 7 contract plows

– 8 NCDOT motor graders, 9 contract grader

– 1,800 tons of salt stored


– 714 miles

– 16 NCDOT plows, 8 contract plows

– 3 NCDOT motor graders, 6 contract grader

– 800 tons of salt stored

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