AUSTIN, Texas — The majority of Central Texas is under a Winter Storm Warning for the first half of the workweek. We're tracking a big drop in temperatures and the chance for some freezing rain and icy roads.
While experts with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) encourage staying off the road, crews are working to treat local roadways to make them safer for Central Texans who have to travel, regardless of the weather.
KVUE spoke with Brad Wheelis, a spokesperson for TxDOT, about which roads the department prioritizes and exactly what crews do to make the roads less dangerous.
"We concentrate on the heaviest-traveled roadways, like I-35, SH 71 – in the rural areas, SH 29," Wheelis said. "We are concentrating on the most heavily traveled roadways first, and then we bring our attention to the secondary roadways."
Wheelis said crews began pre-treating the roads on Sunday. He broke down how the process works.
"We start our pre-treatment with a solution called brine. This is saltwater treatment that is laid down, [and] this can be put down ahead of a storm," Wheelis said. "And so, it dries on the ground and then what it does is [it] prevents ice from bonding on the roadways – kind of lowers the temperature at which water freezes, a little extra time. We think we’re [going to] get hit with this storm, so we will be out there re-treating roadways as necessary."
Wheelis said if light precipitation falls, it won't wash away the brine. But if we get a downpour, the brine can get washed away and crews might have to re-treat.
After the brine has been laid down, crews then move onto a granular substance that melts away any ice that has formed. Wheelis said TxDOT trucks are loaded and ready to spread that granular material whenever necessary.
Wheelis also said TxDOT crews have moved to 24-hour shifts and are ready to work around the clock to keep roadways covered. He said TxDOT's first goal is to make the major arteries passable, but "passable does not mean perfect," so he's still encouraging people to stay off the roads if possible.
"I can’t stress enough that if you don’t have to travel, do not get out in this. If you must travel, [if] you’re an essential personnel, we urge you to go to DriveTexas.org, look at road conditions and then, by all means, drive to conditions," Wheelis said. "That absolutely means slow down, leave a lot more room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you and don’t slam on the brakes. If you can stay home, that’s our biggest piece of advice."