UDOT weather, traffic, and communication experts teamed up to keep the public updated on extreme wind and snow.
UDOT’s coordinated approach kept the traveling public and road crews informed as high winds blew in the north and snow packed roads in the south. Weather and traveler information experts headquartered at the Traffic Operations Center — UDOT’s hub for collecting and distributing weather and traffic information.
The orchestrated effort “was a great example of diverse areas in the department working together to help make the transportation system better and safer for everyone,” said Carlos Braceras, UDOT’s Deputy Director.
Forecasts and observations
The UDOT weather team meteorologists made forecasts of high winds and snow and contacted UDOT operations engineers to make sure all understood the seriousness of the weather message.
Knowing that heavy gusts were expected in east Layton, meteorologists placed a mobile weather station on U.S.-89 to fill a data and observation gap. During the event, meteorologists continued forecasts and observations and helped TOC operators to keep accurate messages on overhead signs and focused on putting out weather information tailored to the traveling public.
Snow in southern Utah slowed and closed parts of I-15, I-70, and SR-10 with ice and drifting snow. The extreme weather posed a challenge. For the most part, however, UDOT crews have been able to keep roads open.
Working togetherUDOT’s communications office began tweeting to get the word out on November 29. UDOT tweeps aimed at sending message every 15 minutes during the event.
Tania Mashburn, UDOT Public Information Officer, gave live media interviews every 5 to 10 minutes from 6 a.m. through early afternoon when the strongest winds subsided. Mashburn is the public face representing the ant hill of activity at the TOC. One challenge Mashburn and others faced was failure of some cameras due to the high winds. Information is more difficult to verify without all of the cameras. TOC operators compensated for the lack of visuals by using information from dispatchers, troopers and other responders, and issued official emergency alerts for closures and restrictions.
Travel Information Manager Lisa Miller is responsible for interfacing with many diverse groups, including UDOT crews and ports of entry, state and county law enforcement agencies and public groups, including truckers and emergency response groups. Miller and others at the TOC coordinated with an Emergency Operations Center in Centerville set up to coordinate response to the emergency. She also helped develop UDOT’s official message – a concise summary of road and weather information.
A hero to truckers
In a UDOT first, Trucking and Rail Planner Daniel Kuhn went into operations mode and helped truckers locate a place to park to wait out the wind or find an alternate route. A self starter, Kuhn started his day at 2 a.m. as traveling to truck stops and making an inventory of stalls. He spend hours contacting ports of entry and truck stops in surrounding states to direct truckers around the problem areas.