St. Louis County’s Department of Transportation - with 230 plow drivers, 115 plows and 35,000 tons of rock salt at its disposal - is a formidable snow-fighting force. And it’s poised 24-hours a day to quiet any icy outbursts from Old Man Winter.
“Our winter operations team is outstanding,” said St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. “We have seasoned professionals and their system for snow removal is precise and efficient.”
Comprised almost entirely of personnel from Transportation’s Division of Operations, St. Louis County’s winter operations team typically begins plowing when one-half inch of snow has accumulated on the pavement. Before the snow arrives, personnel will often pre-treat the County’s 3,100 lane miles of roads and streets with rock salt.
“Our response strategies will vary, depending on pavement temperature and type, timing and projected severity of a particular storm. But, as a general rule, we prefer to pre-treat with rock salt. It’s extremely effective in its ability to break up and melt sleet, ice and snow,” said Charlie Thien, manager of the Division of Operations.
St. Louis County typically salts subdivision and residential streets first, before moving on to the region’s collector and arterial roads.
“We salt the smaller, residential streets first, because they generally won’t be plowed until the larger roads are finished,” Thien said. “When it comes to plowing, our first priority is our arterial road system, because those roads bear the highest volume of emergency and commercial traffic. It’s essential to get those roads clear as soon as possible.”
Examples of arterial roads include Forest Park Parkway, Big Bend, Clayton, Hanley, Baxter, Old State, Chambers, Shackelford, W. Florissant, Patterson, Reavis Barracks, Forder, Sappington and Union.
Thien emphasized, however, that every foot of driving pavement maintained by St. Louis County will be plowed during and after every snow event.
“We’ll deploy plows to the residential streets as quickly as possible. And we’ll continue to plow and salt until the snow is cleared,” Thien said.
The County’s winter operations team splits into two shifts when a snow or ice storm is arriving. Each team works 12-hours: from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., with plows deploying from the Division of Operations’ five district facilities: two in North County, one in West County and two in South County. Each district facility has its own salt dome, and is staffed with individual teams of mechanics to keep the trucks carrying that salt running.