Tough, thick ice creates trouble for Southeast Missouri road crews

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The agencies responsible for clearing roads coated with ice and snow during the 36-hour storm that hit Southeast Missouri this week have plenty of salt, cinders and sand on hand but the depth and toughness is stymieing efforts to clear many streets.

Major roads are mostly clear but secondary roads, especially in areas where ice accumulations snapped trees and power poles, may have been untouched so far, said Nicole Thieret, community relations spokeswoman for the District 10 office in Sikeston.

The district is well-supplied with salt, she said.

"The National Guard is doing a lot to clear those routes," she said. "All we can ask right now is that people be patient with utility companies and us and all the other people out there."

Cape Girardeau has used about half of the 1,000 tons of salt that was on hand before the storm hit, said Tim Gramling, director of public works. Crews have been working 12-hour shifts since Monday at noon, he said, and made significant progress, especially on main roads, before temperatures fell into the 20s overnight and made ice accumulations much more difficult to remove.

Jackson and Cape Girardeau County both use cinders — Jackson also uses three-eighths inch rock mixed in — and both report sufficient supplies on hand but tough going to make roads passable.

"I would caution people to use a high degree of care because there are a lot of slippery places," said Scott Bechtold, director of the county highway department. "There is at least one open lane on at least 95 percent of our roads and we are trying to get them all broken open with at least one good lane and then go back and get another lane open."

In Bollinger County, six road graders are working to open the gravel roads in the county, but the county does not use salt to melt ice, said Randy Mayfield, chief of that county's road department. It is tough going, he said. "Oh no, we haven't come near to getting all the roads."

And in Scott City, most roads are passable and the city has an ample supply of sand, its main product for providing traction, said Jack Rasnic, director of public works. "Sand seems to work pretty good and we've got some areas starting to melt out pretty good now," he said.

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