AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As the Texas Panhandle continues to see winter weather conditions, officials from the Texas Department of Transportation’s Amarillo District are in the midst of preparing roads to help motorists get to where they need to go.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, TxDOT is the main department responsible for monitoring and maintaining roadways including the interstate, state and other highways. Last week, Sonja Gross, the public information officer for TxDOT Amarillo, told MyHighPlains.com prior to last week’s winter weather event that crews plow a road and treat it with salt or bottom ash to help vehicles gain traction, especially on curves, bridges or overpasses.
However, with the area on the verge of another winter weather event within the span of a week, one that Gross said could bring more ice, officials from TxDOT are continuing to encourage drivers to plan ahead prior to going out on the roads Tuesday. According to a forecast from KAMR Local 4 News Meteorologist John Harris, Tuesday, along with Wednesday and Thursday, could continue the recent trend of “cold wintry weather,” with the potential for precipitation.
On Sunday evening, Gross said that several crews across the 17-county Amarillo District were out on roads, patrolling them and treating them as needed, stressing that crews mainly focused on bridges, overpasses and other spots that are likely to be the first to freeze during winter weather events. Gross expects crews to continue that process Monday evening, going into Tuesday.
“The good news for drivers is that we have crews across the 17 counties,” Gross said, “so, they’re going to be monitoring the road conditions throughout their counties overnight and throughout the entire event and treating the roadways with sand, ash… whatever it needs to be to treat the roadways to make them (drivable.)”
While crews with TxDOT will be continuously monitoring the roads as the winter weather event lasts through the next few days, Gross encouraged Amarillo and other Texas Panhandle residents to check weather and road conditions prior to driving, even if they are planning on traveling outside the Texas Panhandle region.
“Then that way, you can make an informed decision on whether or not you can get to where you’re going safely,” she said. “Keep in mind, if you’re going to be traveling out of the Amarillo area, anywhere out of our district, all of Texas, for the most part, is going to be experiencing some kind of winter weather event.”
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, TxDOT provided various tips on planning ahead for winter travel, including:
- Prepare your vehicle for winter weather by checking the antifreeze, battery, tires, windshield wipers and lights, along with brake lights;
- Assemble an emergency roadside kit to keep in the vehicle which should include water, snacks, blankets, etc.; and
- Use the defroster and ice scraper to clear the windshield before driving.
TxDOT also released safety tips for driving on icy roads, including:
- Turn low-beam headlights on to see and be seen by other drivers;
- Slow down and increase your distance between other vehicles as it can take twice as long to stop on wet roads and up to 10 times longer on icy roads;
- Use extra caution on bridges, ramps, overpasses, and shaded areas which freeze first;
- Do not use the cruise control as it can cause loss of control of a vehicle on icy surfaces;
- Accelerate and brake gently using slow, steady strokes to test traction;
- Approach turns, bridges, and shaded spots slowly, and if your vehicle starts to slide, stay calm and keep both hands on the wheel. Take your foot off the gas, and then steer in the direction of the skid. Once your vehicle regains traction, turn your wheels in the direction you want to go;
While TxDOT treats most winter weather events the same from a patrolling standpoint, pretreating roadways when they can, Gross said there could be a difference between last week’s winter weather event in comparison to this week’s.
“I think we have a better chance for ice this time and that’s what’s going to make it more treacherous for drivers,” Gross said. “So, it’s not going to change what we do, per se, but I think it’s going to change drivers’ decisions on whether or not they get behind the wheel of a car.”
For the latest information on the weather conditions, visit the Weather homepage.