From Beet Juice To Sand And Salt: How NWA Crews Respond To Snowfall

Crews have spent all week clearing off icy roadways in Northwest Arkansas. Whether using beet juice or sand and salt, local road officials say they are ready for the next round of snow and ice.

“What our citizens want is drivable roads in a timely manner after an event,” said Sam Goade, Springdale’s public works director.

Goade said the key to properly clear roads is to attack the fresh snow early.

“What our goal is, is to never let it stick to the road,” he said. “That’s our whole game plan.”

Springdale officials said best way to keep that layer of ice from sticking to pavement is to cover it in beet juice. Administrators ordered more than 1,000 gallons of the mixture earlier this week after running low.

“With the beet juice and the salt, if we get it on the road at the right time and the right quantities, it forms a thin layer of liquid between the pavement and frozen precipitation,” Goade said.

Once the ice is separated from the roadway by a layer of water, road crews can clear the roadways easier, the public works director said.

Benton County road officials do not use beet juice, but they do drop a sand-salt mixture on the roads that is effective if laid early enough, with some planning, said Benton County Judge Bob Clinard.

“We identify the roads, the intersections we want to concentrate on,” he said. “Now, you can’t always do that because you don’t know where snow’s going to hit the hardest. It’s a big county.”

Heavy snowfall and the resulting ice shut down roads and schools in Washington and Benton County several times this winter, first in December, then in early January. Despite a few rounds of ice and snow earlier this week, crews said they are making progress and are ready for the next event.

Springdale aldermen recently approved the purchase of two new spreader trucks to help with the cleanup effort after a winter weather event. The new equipment, paired with newfound experience and GPS units designed to help crews identify ways to increase efficiency, makes Springdale officials confident they can handle whatever else the winter throws at them.

“That’s not to say that every time we have a gigantic snowstorm or ice storm that we’re going to be 100 percent successful,” Goade said. “But we can certainly do better than we have in the past.”

But no matter what equipment is available to local road crews, Clinard said sometimes the best response is the natural one.

“Well, obviously sunlight works better than anything when you’re dealing with snow and ice,” he said. “The sunlight heats up the pavement. The subgrade melts. It turns the snow and ice into something you can scrape off.”

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