April 19th, 2011

STILL RAINING

Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is monitoring roads and bridges and taking preventative measures as accumulated mountain snow melts and more spring storms hit Utah.

Traffic control devices warn motorists and sand bags keep water off roads.

UDOT roads and bridges are designed and built to accommodate most heavy spring run-off. This year, with higher than usual snow accumulation and more storms coming, Transportation Technicians and engineers are doing as much as possible to prevent flooding on state roads. For the last six to eight weeks, crews have been busily taking the following precautions:

Checking bridges and drainage systems daily. Crews watch for debris that could cause water to spill over bridges or drainage systems and onto roads.

Cleaning out drainage ditches, inlets, pipes and culverts. Keeping drainage systems clear of  debris can help keep water off of the road. “Debris can severely limit the amount of flow that can pass through and cause flooding to occur,” says Jeff Erdman, Region One Hydraulogic Roadway Design Engineer.

“Taking a proactive approach at inspecting pipes helps mitigate any potential of flooding.  By the time a flood stage level occurs it is too late to prevent flooding but only to react to the problem to minimize it. ”

UDOT Region One has a remote controlled inspection device that can spot blockages in pipes and culverts. The camera-on-wheels has been put to good use this spring, says Erdman, to identify debris that can prevent proper drainage and cause flooding.

Filling sandbags. Over four-hundred thousand sand bags have been purchased and deployed statewide.

Getting heavy equipment ready. Back-hoes and front-loaders, used to clear away debris from the road, have been filled with fuel and “placed in strategic locations so they’re ready to go,” says Rich Clarke, UDOT’s Director of Maintenance.

Preparing traffic control devices. Orange barrels and other safety devices are used to warn motorists to steer clear of water on state roads.

Readying trucks for carrying riprap. Very large rocks and riprap can be used to re-direct water off roads. Truck bed liners are installed to prevent damage while hauling rocks.

Weather or not

Monitoring forecasts plays a very important role in almost everything UDOT does, from maintenance to construction.

Scot Chipman (background) and Jeff Williams, both Meteorologists, watch weather and make forecasts for UDOT.

Weather forecasters are playing a part in predicting where and when run-off may threaten a state road. Data collected from Road Weather Information Stations placed throughout the state, snow measurement sites and stream flow sites is  monitored and analyzed to predict run-off levels. When streams near state roads run high, UDOT maintenance crews get a warning call or email.

“There’s really no way to predict exactly what’s going to happen with flooding on the roads” says Leigh Jones, UDOT Road Information Systems Manager. “But we can give a general sense of what to expect so crews can prepare for what might come their way.”

Leigh Jones

A sudden rise in temperature may cause snow in the mountains to melt quickly, while slow warming may cause a more gradual run-off to occur. “A lot of it will have to do with how the spring weather pans out,” says Jones.

Motorists, be advised: Please use caution, avoid flooded areas and obey all warning and closure signs.

For weather information related to UDOT roads, see the CommuterLink Website and click “Road Weather” (in the green bar at the top) to get current road conditions, forecasts and emergency alerts.

The CommuterLink site has current weather and forecasts — very helpful information for motorists, especially those who travel through a flood-prone area.

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Responses to “STILL RAINING”

  1. Congratulations UDOT – keep up the great work. Sounds like you guys are prepared for anything – very nice.

  2. great post i just got in to remote controlled vehicles myself!

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