INDIANAPOLIS — Meteorological winter starts on Dec. 1 and, as the date continues to approach, Hoosiers will begin to brace for the snowy season.
On Sept. 26, the Indiana Department of Transportation hosted hiring events in 13 locations across the Hoosier State to recruit full-time roadworkers and on-call snowplow drivers.
According to its website, INDOT deploys up to 2,000 drivers, mechanics, clerks and managers to help clear snow from Indiana’s roads. If necessary, INDOT employees will work alternating 12-hour shifts, seven days a week to keep snow off roadways.
INDOT’s website indicates state officials monitor multiple weather forecasts to help determine when snowplows from its fleet of 1,105 trucks should be deployed. The DOT oversees the removal of snow on more than 29,000 lane miles worth of Hoosier roadways.
INDOT officials said the department has three goals it aims to hit whenever it removes snow from a road, according to its website. The Department wants to keep all roads and bridges open and passable, operate as efficiently and effectively as possible and maximize safety and mobility during winter weather conditions.
Keeping Indiana’s roadways clean is a multi-pronged process, per INDOT. Crews pre-treat highways with salt brine before storms to help keep snow and ice from bonding to the pavement.
INDOT’s website states that, after snow and ice have been plowed from the pavement, various chlorides are applied to help break up any leftover frozen precipitation that might be stuck to the road. The chemicals are also used to make removing snow and ice packs from the road easier.
During winter storms, INDOT plows every U.S. route, interstate highway and state road every two or three hours. Crews maintain the schedule of salting and plowing until there is exposed pavement on travel lanes, per INDOT.
Snowplows don’t just clear roads during the winter. They also help push snow off road shoulders and clear storm drains, according to INDOT.
Snowplows might also be seen driving with their blades up. INDOT’s website states those trucks are likely refueling, being refilled with salt or driving a practice run.
INDOT snowplow drivers make practice runs to familiarize themselves with the locations of drainage inlets, manholes, curbing and driveway entrances. Officials believe practice runs help snowplow drivers assess which areas may need special treatment like hills, curves, intersections, drift-prone stretches and cold spots.
INDOT’s website also acknowledges that snow removal may damage signs, mailboxes and parked vehicles. The department states that this type of destruction is typically caused by the force of snow being plowed, not truck blades.
Local municipalities throughout Indiana also have snowplows of their own. In Indianapolis, Indy Snow Force deals with the removal of frozen precipitation on 4,000 lane miles worth of streets, according to Indy.gov.
Indy Snow Force also removes snow from the city’s greenways, trails and walking paths. Crews in Indiana’s capital city prioritize major roads, then slowly remove snow from “secondary streets.”
Streets that don’t qualify as primary or secondary roads aren’t always plowed by Indy Snow Force. Indy.gov indicates that “connector streets” are subject to a 6-inch rule. With a few exceptions, ISF plows are only dispatched to connector streets if more than six inches of snow have fallen.
The Farmers’ Almanac’s 2024 Extended Winter Forecast predicts a cold and stormy winter for Indiana. National Weather Service data indicates central Indiana typically sees about 25.5 inches of snowfall per year.