ST. LOUIS – Snow is not in the forecast yet, but it will be here before we know it. MoDOT has been preparing by holding a statewide winter weather operations drill on Wednesday and Thursday.
When snow and ice arrive this winter, it will not just be Mother Nature that road crews will battle. MoDOT said they are roughly 1,000 snowplow operators short to staff a winter storm lasting more than 12 hours.
“Unfortunately, we are several hundred shorter than even last year. So, it will take us even longer to get to routes. We will focus on clearing interstates and higher volume major routes,” said Michelle Forneris, the assistant district engineer for MoDOT’s St. Louis District.
To help, MoDOT said they’ll move crews around statewide based on a storm’s path.
“But it very likely that state lettered and numbered routes will potentially take us 24 hours or more before you see snow plows on those routes,” Forneris said.
Officials spoke during MODOT’s annual statewide winter operations drill, where employees tested vehicle equipment and drove assigned snow routes. Emergency communications systems were also tested.
“With the higher turnover and many positions still open, this drill is critical to our operations and readiness,” Forneris said.
In Illinois, staffing is also not where they’d like. IDOT said they are down eight to 10 percent from last year, but are in the process of bringing on new hires.
“We are trending lower, and it concerns both Illinois and Missouri. We’re going to do what we can, kind of like investing in equipment and other resources, to make up that shortfall,” said Joseph Monroe, the IDOT District 8 operations engineer.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said snow-covered roads will slow their response time to crashes.
“Traffic safety begins with you and the choices that you make behind the wheel,” said Cpl. Dallas Thompson with the patrol. “So, as winter weather approaches, we’re going to urge you to slow down, obey all traffic laws, and eliminate any and all distractions.”
MoDOT and IDOT are looking to hire more plow drivers. In both states, you must be at least 18 years old, submit to a criminal background check, and have a commercial driver’s license. The pay starts at around $20 an hour.