The cooperation and understanding of all residents is essential for the town highway department to achieve its objective of maintaining or restoring the roadways so they are open and safe for travel as promptly and efficiently as possible during winter snowstorms.
In an effort to inform Riverhead residents about how we go about doing that, what follows is a general description of the department’s snow and ice operations policy. Of course, each storm is different, but we will try to follow our snow and ice operations policy as closely as possible.
Prior to an impending storm, the highway department initiates anti-icing operations by spreading a brine solution first on main roads, hills, curves, school bus routes and, finally, all side roads and subdivisions. The brining serves two main purposes: It prevents the snow from bonding to the pavement and compacting and it keeps traffic moving safely during the initial phase of the storm.
As snow starts to fall, the highway department will dispatch trucks to sand the roads. The main roads are sanded first, then the secondary and side roads and, finally, subdivisions. After the sanding operation has been completed, the department will begin snow removal, with priority again given to main roads, intersections, school zones and streets with hills and curves. The secondary streets and subdivisions receive equal attention after the main road and intersections have been cleared.
High winds may create dangerous drifting of snow and if this occurs, the highway department will go into a “main road plowing only” mode until the roads can be made safe for travel. Once the snowfall has stopped and all roads are clear of snow, post-storm de-icing operations commence. All roads are treated with salt and sand when necessary to improve traction and melt remaining snow and ice.
Residents can assist the highway department during a snowstorm by heeding these suggestions:
1. Reduce your speed and drive cautiously.
2. Stay off the roadways during snowstorms unless absolutely necessary.
3. Park vehicles in driveways and off the roadway. Vehicles left parked on roadways are a hazard for other drivers and delays highway crew’s efforts to plow the roads.
4. Move basketball hoops, garbage cans, etc., off the roadway.
5. Do not plow, blow or throw snow back into the road. This is prohibited by both NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law. Section 1219, and Chapter 92 of the town code.
6. Storm events are normally forecast two to three days in advance so please make every effort to prepare and gather whatever supplies you and your family will need. Gas, food, water and medicine sufficient to last two to three days is recommended.
7. Be patient. The highway department will make every effort to plow all roadways as quickly as possible and place snow along the roadway or within the cul-de-sac in a location that will cause residents as little inconvenience as possible.
8. In the event of an emergency, please call the Riverhead Police Department. The police department will notify the highway department so that we may get whatever emergency equipment is needed to the scene. Following this procedure will decrease the amount of time it takes emergency assistance to arrive.
The Town of Riverhead Highway Department’s 30 employees are responsible for well over 415 lane miles of roadway. With your assistance and patience, we will be able to get roads open, keep traffic flowing and restore roads to safe traveling condition quickly.
George “Gio” Woodson was elected as Riverhead’s highway superintendent in 2008. He previously worked in the highway department for over 20 years.
Editor’s note: This originally appeared in The Riverhead News-Review in 2014.