PORT TOWNSEND — Snow is in the weather forecast for next week, and county and city officials are preparing to keep the roads clear and safe.
According to the National Weather Service, there is a possibility of lowland snow starting Sunday and continuing into next week in Port Townsend, and places throughout Jefferson County saw small amounts of snow Thursday morning.
The Olympic Mountains have already seen plenty of snow in the higher elevations.
Both Jefferson County and the city of Port Townsend Public Works Departments have snow plows ready. The county team had already spread salt early Thursday and had another truck go out in the afternoon, said Matt Stewart, road maintenance superintendent for the county Public Works Department.
The city doesn’t salt roads, instead plowing and using sand, said Brian Reid, city operations manager for streets, stormwater and sewer.
The city has three plow trucks with 10-foot-long blades and two vehicles with 8-foot long blades. The county has five vehicles with 10- to 11-foot long plows at its Port Hadlock location, three in Quilcene and two in West Jefferson County, Reid and Stewart said.
The county also has three smaller plow vehicles that do not need a commercial driver’s license to operate — making them easier to staff if needed — with two on hand in Port Hadlock and one in the west end of the county, Stewart said.
There are about 400 miles of road that county Public Works is responsible for, and when snowstorms hit they plow and salt about a quarter of that first and service the remainder as soon as they are able, Stewart said.
City officials manage 88 miles of road, according to the city’s website.
When the county lays salt, it is mixed with liquid calcium chloride and anti-corrosion chemicals, which help the salt stick to the road and melt ice at low temperatures, rather than being kicked up by other vehicles, Stewart said.
Salting helps prevent roads from icing over and protects against the initial layer of snow, and it is spread at a rate of about one “chunk” per square yard, which mixes with water to cover the area, Stewart said.
“It’s just enough salt to prevent morning frost or just the first bit of snow,” Stewart said. “It we’re doing it right, you won’t see the salt.
“We have a small mountain [of salt] at the ready. Three inches of snow here can impact transportation significantly.”
Another worry for officials is the possibility of freezing fog, that can cause ice to accumulate on the road, Stewart said.
If snowfall is forecasted, officials recommend getting errands done before it hits, to limit the amount of trips needed when snow is covering the roads.
“As much as we can do safely, we try to keep roads and businesses open,” Stewart said. “The more remote you are from primary roads, the more you should prepare for not being able to get out.”
Both the county and the city have maps online about each of their road clearing priorities. County road maps can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-SnowIce. City road priority maps can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-SnowRoutes.
Both teams will have drivers ready 24 hours a day during periods of expected snow, officials said.
The school districts for East Jefferson County will announce closures and delays through a variety of outlets starting at 4:30 a.m. the day of snowfall or sooner depending on conditions, school superintendents said.
If nothing is announced by officials about changes to normal school schedules, schools are operating at normal times.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]