Kristi King, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Ever seen a ten-wheel dump truck take a bunny hop? That's what can happen when snow plows encounter an especially hard section of an ice-packed street.
Drivers who hit the road before plows have removed snow and ice from surfaces can cause that situation by packing the precipitation down. And that has 29-year veteran Prince George's County snow plow driver Dave Howard begging drivers to stay off roads until they've been treated.
Howard recalls totaling a parked car once when his truck bunny-hopped because the plow hit packed ice. He says the car got shoved sideways onto a curb, the driver side wheels collapsed underneath it, leaving one side of the car sitting on hubcaps. And he says he was only going 15 miles an hour.
Howard is among emergency crew members preparing early for winter weather. More than 400 workers in Prince George's County participated on Friday morning in a snow and ice dry run exercise.
Snow plow trucks hit the road. Drivers became familiar with assigned routes. Supervisors huddled around a conference table coordinating the response of myriad county agencies. Clerks monitored the Automated Vehicle Locator system that tracks plow truck progress in real time, showing vehicle locations as dots on maps.
In a room, one wall is covered with a video screen that shows a selection of maps, web sites, weather reports, plow and supervisor vehicle locations, road temperatures and intersection cameras.
Cameras attached to plows and inspector's trucks also flashed on the wall occasionally and on various computer screens in the room. Those vehicle cameras are part of the multifaceted AVL system.
AVL also allows plow drivers such as Vanessa Gordon-Watson to report safety issues she encounters on her route. All she has to do is touch an icon representing, for example, downed power lines, a pothole, or a branch in the road.
That simple touch shoots a report with a GPS tagged location to the customer service center that can send an appropriate response. So, the next time you see a snow plow driver you can thank them. They're not just pushing snow - they're making roads safer other ways too.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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