Utah DOT’s Weather Operations Program Celebrates its 15th Year
The UDOT Weather Operations Program is celebrating its 15th year of managing weather events throughout the state of Utah. Beginning officially with the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Weather Operations program has reached many milestones over the years. Nearly 20 years ago, UDOT’s first contract meteorologist began with forecasts for a small section of the state. Today, UDOT employs a full time UDOT Weather Operations Manager, 8-12 meteorologists and a UDOT weather research analyst.
Figure 1A UDOT RWIS deployment.
So, how has the program grown and changed over time?
UDOT meteorologists handle over 5,000 phone calls in a typical winter season. There is a significant amount of coordination with the National Weather Service and UDOT plow crews. Ahead of any major weather events, including winter storms, wind events and rain/floods, UDOT’s Weather Operations group will host a weather briefing, sharing critical and timely information. UDOT signals, traveler information, operations, Ports of Entry, Utah Highway Patrol, communications and other teams are all participants.
The UDOT Citizen Reporter program smartphone apps for iOS and Google Play were launched in October 2013 to allow motorists to report road and weather conditions to UDOT. The UDOT app was the first of its kind in the country! UDOT has received thousands of reports from citizens since the program launched and reminds all drivers to never use apps while driving.
Figure 2 The UDOT Citizen Reporter app is a free download for iPhone and Droid.
Figure 3 Sign up to be a UDOT Citizen Reporter.
A new feature to the UDOT Traffic app and website is the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) of all UDOT plows during storms. A citizen can get, at a glance, an understanding of where all UDOT plows are currently working. This enhancement also allows UDOT to better track plow movements for possible equipment and material savings. Overall, this enhancement has been very well received by the public.
Figure 4UDOT plows at work during a winter storm.
UDOT launched a Winter Road Weather Index (WRWI) project a few years ago to monitor snow and ice removal. The next generation of the WRWI is here… in the form of winter weather performance metrics. UDOT’s Snow and Ice performance metrics dashboard has real-time statistics that are utilized by UDOT maintenance crews to determine how effective they were at maintaining good road conditions during a storm. Several metrics go into creating the measure, including the intensity of the storm, length of time the storm is ongoing, resources allocated to the maintenance shed covering the geographic area and field instrumentation on the RWIS units. The resulting information is utilized to measure storm performance, identify best practices and possibly re-allocate resources to better cover areas in need.
Figure 5UDOT’s Snow and Ice Performance Measure uses green, yellow and red data points to assess how maintenance crews responded to the storm.
UDOT is fortunate to have an incredible crew of plow drivers who are very dedicated to their jobs and to Keeping Utah Moving. But there’s always room for improvement and sometimes opportunities for efficiency and resource allocation. In order to track performance and possibilities for improvement, the snow and ice performance metric takes into consideration several baseline data points including snow fall rate, time of day and shed resources.
Figure 6The UDOT Snow and Ice Performance measure graphic is available for each storm, allowing management to view an assessment and determine of additional resources are needed.
The graphic colors represented here show that UDOT’s crews managed the storm well but have some areas for improvement. The green data points show that when all factors are considered, the plow crews are exceeding expectations and are doing a great job keeping up with the storm and keeping the road well maintained. The yellow data points show that crews are performing within current capabilities for equipment and manpower. The red data points are highlighting areas for improvement where crews are not performing up to UDOT’s standards. Because the data comes to UDOT in real-time, a shed foreman has the ability to review the information at the end of the storm, end of the month or end of the season!
Under the red, yellow and green data point graph, the plow icon shows the movement of plows over the course of the storm.
Figure 7The Snow and Ice Performance metric includes details about the storm, including pavement temperature, storm intensity and precipitation type.
The archived snow and ice removal performance metric data includes atmospheric conditions, air temperature, pavement temperature, precipitation type and other meteorological factors that can help to determine the intensity
Figure 8UDOT Traffic camera screenshots are archived with each storm’s metrics to provide a visual description of the storm.
of the storm. UDOT Traffic camera screenshots are also included to give a data user a visual of the road during the storm. All of this information comes together to give shed crews and UDOT leadership an idea of how resources are being utilized and where there are areas for improvement.
UDOT is ready for the winter season and we hope you are, too. Now would be a good time to check the condition of your tires and ensure you have an emergency kit in your trunk. Please remember: always buckle up and never drive distracted. Check the UDOT Traffic app or website before every trip.