Sleet presents tough challenge for drivers, road clearing crews, and snow shovelers

Sleet presents tough challenge for drivers, road clearing crews, snow shovelers

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The weather outside is frightful once again for much of central Virginia. With icy conditions on many roads and more winter weather expected over night, experts best advice is just to stay home.

The fourth winter storm in four weeks for central Virginia, but what’s on the ground now is presenting the biggest challenge yet for travelers and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews working to get the roads clear: sleet.

Walter Opie, his crew, and hundreds like them have been working for hours to get the slush off the roadway. “They’re slushy, still kind of bad,” he explained. “If you don’t have to, don’t come out here.”

Sleet presents a unique challenge for clearing crews: it’s tougher to tackle than freezing rain or snow.

“Two inches of snow on a roadway is no problem for any of our trucks. Two inches of sleet can be quite heavy,” Ken Slack with the Virginia Department of Transportation explained. “It can be very taxing. Plus, you know, it does require us to keep treating the roads, not just plowing them.”

That’s why many roads are having to be plowed multiple times before they are safe to drive on.

“It can take a couple times,” Opie explained. “You know, but keep treating, keep on doing it and it will get better.”

As tough as the sleet and slush is to get off roadways, it is even tougher to get off sidewalks. Home owners and maintenance workers alike are finding that out first hand. The iciness of the sleet is making shoveling even more grueling.

Clayton Minor, a building supervisor at The Standard apartment building on West Main Street says that’s why it’s even more important to help your neighbors.

“Salt your areas, take small steps, be kind to your neighbors,” Minor said. “Help your elders out, if they can’t get out, that’s the best thing you can do. Good karma is the best karma.”

Now, crews are looking towards the future. With more winter weather expected, VDOT is working to get more melting agents on the roads to prevent icy roads overnight.

“Sleet and freezing rain can very quickly turn into ice as you know vehicles drive on them and temperatures dip,” Slack said. “We have to not just plow but also treat the road, and in some cases put down some abrasives as well.”

Albemarle County Fire and Rescue says that they have not received many calls for accidents. Deputy Chief John Oprandy says that’s because there simply aren’t many drivers on the road, and he wants it to stay that way.

“If you have to go out, really you’re going to have to leave extra space, all the way around,” Oprandy said. “Extra space for starting off, extra space for stopping the vehicle at the stop sign or the vehicle in front of you”

Sound advice, backed up by someone who’s been following it all day.

“Take your time,” Opie said. “Don’t be in a rush. You have plenty of time to get there.”

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