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Turnpike crews ready to roll out

CANFIELD — Though snow and ice are not yet in the forecast, the Ohio Turnpike snowplow fleet is ready to go once inclement weather falls upon the state.

All eight maintenance buildings along the Ohio Turnpike completed their yearly 136-point inspections of their snow and ice fleets this week. Christopher Kalis, building foreman of the Canfield maintenance building, said the inspections take place annually before the start of winter to ensure all of the trucks are ready to hit the icy roads.

The checklist includes checking the hydraulics of the truck beds, lights, brakes, drive lines, plows and salt spray systems. Kalis said the fleet is anticipating to start its season late November or mid-December, but it varies year to year. The fleet has gone out as early as October, but Kalis said he’s thankful for the unusually warm weather the past few weeks.

Last year, 54 winter storm events impacted the turnpike, resulting in crews across the state working more than 36,000 hours to keep the roads clear using 346,000 gallons of chemicals and 62,000 tons of salt.

The Canfield fleet consists of 10 trucks: four right-hand trucks, four left-hand trucks and two without shoulder wings. Right-hand trucks are equipped with a wing on the right side to clear the shoulder of the road, and left-hand trucks have a wing on the left side.

“Ideally, the trucks work simultaneously in opposite lanes to clear the road,” Kalis said.

While it’s not unusual for snowplow crews to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week clearing the roads, Kalis said the crew spends the other half of the day acting as meteorologists. Kalis said he and his employees constantly are checking the National Weather Service for hourly snowfall and freezing rain predictions to gauge when the fleet should hit the road. If they see freezing rain on the radar, crews will head out to pre-treat bridges and other surfaces that tend to become slippery in freezing weather.

Kalis said he expects to have enough manpower to get through the season, but the turnpike is hiring several other positions across the state.

Ohio Turnpike officials said they want to remind Ohio drivers to make sure their own vehicles are winter ready and to practice safe driving this winter.

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