ODOT: 'We were ready'

ODOT: 'We were ready' »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Maybe Friday morning's snow surprised you, but Oregon's Department of Transportation says it was ready a week ago.

Crews started treating highways, bridges and major roads at the first indication of cold weather.

ODOT has more than 100 de-icing trucks that spread a special chemical, magnesium chloride, onto 699 miles of roadway in the Portland region.

Ted Miller, the region's maintenance and operations manager, says crews started "pre-treating" roads as early as 10 days ago.

The initial layer of de-icing chemical protects road surfaces by preventing ice from bonding to the pavement in the first place.

When conditions worsen, ODOT deploys extra trucks and boosts the amount of magnesium chloride it applies.

"We were ready," said Miller. "You can see the telltale signs of de-icing chemicals on the pavement when it looks wet."

Some of ODOT's trucks also have sensors that detect road surface temperature and humidity. This allows drivers to adjust the amount of de-icer they apply.

"We can budget better this way," said Miller. "It helps save material. It's really cool."

Miller says ODOT will have crews working 24/7 throughout the weekend applying de-icer as needed. The chemicals wear out after four to five days, plus actual moisture dilutes it even faster.

During the winter months, ODOT always has one driver on-duty at each of its five Portland maintenance zones to watch the road conditions and respond as needed.

"You never know when the temperature is going to dip down, and you'll have to pull the trigger and get out to treat the highways," said Miller.