When meteorologists forecast a snowstorm, Eric DiBucci's family jokes that he should sleep in his shoes.
DiBucci, of Shaler Township, is part of the Shaler Township Public Works Department crew charged with clearing and salting the 125 miles of roadway in the township at a moment's notice during a winter storm.
“We spend a lot of time out on our roads,” DiBucci said last week while plowing and salting his route in a section of the Burchfield neighborhood. “By the time this (storm) is all done and over with, we'll have all the roads clean.”
Wednesday, Dec. 26, marked the first significant snowstorm of the season, which dropped about 4.4 inches of snow in the Pittsburgh area.
“That was the first real test of the year,” said Dean Bastianini, Richland Township manager. “And they (the road crews) did excellent.”
However, township officials' preparations for the winter season begin long before the first snow flake is in the air.
“We make sure everyone is ready to fight the storm … and wait for the snow,” said Tim Rogers, Shaler Township manager.
Local township officials start winter storm preparations between the summer and Halloween by completing an inventory of all of the equipment, preparing trucks for spreading salt and plowing as well as ordering the initial salt supply.
“We're very fortunate to have a lot of storage on site,” said Chris Lochner, Hampton Township manager. “We anticipate we'll use 10,000 to 11,000 tons of salt.
“We use a little more than most municipalities because our topography does not lend itself to using anti-skid materials. We have a lot of hills and wet slush drainage spots.”
Township officials also keep a close watch on the forecasts so as not to be surprised by a winter storm event.
“I'm addicted to the weather,” Rogers said. “I look at the weather all day long, AccuWeather, NOAA (National Weather Service).”
Road crews then use their training and experience to judge how much salt they spread and whether or not they plow the roads then spread salt in order to maximize the effect of their work.
“Our crews are very good,” Lochner said. “They're very good at what they do and they know how to play the game.”
Township personnel work together to keep all responders informed during a winter storm.
Township crews and police officers radio in to the public works foremen and crews to tell them where there are reports of poor road conditions or where they are needed in case of an emergency to clear the way for first responders.
Although last winter was mild and initial forecasts call for a typical winter this year, Bastianini said the goal each year is to be prepared for any weather.
“We're geared up for the worst and we hope for the best each year,” he said.
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.