Tag Archives: snow

You can tow someone out of the snowy ditch, but it can be a bad idea

The in basket: It was back in the 1970’s, I think, when my wife of the time and I got surprised by a sudden snowfall while visiting near Kitsap Lake, and had to get home to Long Lake as the roads rapidly worsened.

We wound up paying $10 to one fellow who was making some quick cash by towing stuck motorists to the top of Mile Hill in South Kitsap when we couldn’t get traction to make it ourselves.

It was a brief victory. Within minutes, we had skidded into the ditch on Long Lake Road. After a three-mile walk almost to home, two friendly fellows came along in a four-wheel drive truck and offered to take us back and fetch our car.

I’ve often though what a mean trick it would have been if they’d let us out back at the car and drove off, leaving us another three-mile trek. But they were just good Samaritans and rescued us and our car at no charge.

I was reminded of that night when a reader briefly got the misimpression from a friend that, during one of our few snows this winter, a deputy sheriff came upon him towing another driver out of the ditch and said he could be ticketed for doing that.

It turned out there was no such threat, but it left me wondering if it’s legal to do it.

The out basket: First I asked Deputy Sheriff Scott Wilson, who looked into it and found no law against it. “If you are a private person and not doing it for hire, you can pull someone  out of the ditch and even tow the vehicle, if someone is in the vehicle and it’s properly lighted,” he said. .

“Most important,” he added, “if you’re going to pull someone, you need to have safety chains between the two vehicles” to be legal.

I next asked State Trooper Russ Winter about it and he agreed there is no specific law prohibiting it.

“However,” he said, ” the WSP in most cases discourages private towing from collision scenes in snow events. Very few are ‘simple pullouts’ where there is no blocking the road or jockeying for position to accomplish the task.

“Any activity such as this along the highway is very dangerous for everyone involved,” he said. “When you are at or near the crashed vehicle you are in what we call ‘the glide path,’ meaning if other vehicles lose control in the same area (which occurs often) you are in a dangerous place.

“Private vehicles are not equipped with emergency lights and equipment and increase the hazard. As a result we discourage it.

“That is not to say we have not taken advantage of a 4×4 truck with a tow strap to do a quick pull out,” he said. “We have. I have.”

“There is a certain liability involved. As such we use licensed and trained professional towing in most cases in urban core areas.

“More rural areas may resort – at times – to private tows, if they are on scene and the pullout is relatively simple.

Anything more complicated and we will wait for proper equipment and personnel to do the job in the safest manner.”



Kitsap not affected by snow/ice cutbacks

The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston e-mailed to say, “Both King County and Pierce County public works departments have made the regional news regarding the serious cutbacks to snow removal\sanding in those counties due to the depression.

“Just curious how Kitsap’s snow removal \ sanding budget projections are looking?

“Since I do not live anywhere near an essential county employee, is it time to pull the ‘all weather’ tires and go back to the lugged studs?” he asked.

The out basket: If Jerry got by with all weather tires when it snowed in previous years, he should be able to stick with them this winter.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works and Claudia Bingham-Baker of this region of state highways both say there will be no reductions in snow and ice removal services from previous winters.

Doug has just turned out a news release about the county’s electronic notification system that provides information in any kind of inclement weather.  

“We have several options that help residents keep informed during winter storms,” he said. “These options let residents choose the best way for them to receive automatic updates during inclement weather. Subscribers choose from several options on the type of information they want, how they want it delivered, and how frequently they want updates.” There is no charge and about 7,000 residents have subscribed so far, Doug said..

Information sent through this system is posted to the County’s Facebook page and sent to the County’s Twitter feed. Winter storm updates are also posted to the county’s Inclement Weather page at www.kitsapgov.com/press/inclement_weather.asp. and can be sent to mobile devices. The news release includes a lot more information, and can be viewed in full at the top of the county’s home page at www.kitsapgov.com/.

Then there is the snow and ice plan itself, seen online at  http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/snowplow.htm.

It will tell you how soon you can expect the roads near you to be plowed and includes a color-coded map to show each road’s priority. It shows Priority 1 roads like Hansville, Clear Creek and Holly roads and Mile Hill Drive that are plowed first, then priority 2 roads like Sunnyslope, Willamette Meridian, Wildcat and Sawdust Hill roads, which they’ll get to when the Priority 1s are clear. If the snow continues or resumes falling, they’ll go back to the Priority 1s and those who use Priority 2s and even smaller roads will have to wait.

The plan also details preventive measures, saying, “When conditions are favorable for ice forming on roadways, sand and/or salt brine is applied to the road surface. Initial sanding and/or brining operations prioritize hills, curves, intersections, bridges, and elevated structures on Priority 1 and Priority 2 routes.”

Recessed reflectors are for safety more than cost-savings

The in basket: As I drove down one of the numerous Kitsap County roads in which the centerline is marked by reflectors recessed into the pavement, I got to wondering if the county has noticed a savings in not having to replace so many of the reflectors that get knocked off by snow plowing or other causes. I also wondered if the county has an ongoing program of recessing the reflectors, and whether all areas of the county are getting them.

The out basket: County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea replied, “This is more a safety issue than a cost savings.  When it rains, moisture on the pavement tends to make painted centerlines difficult to see.  The recessed pavement markers greatly improve the centerline visibility.

“Raised pavement markers are often scraped off the road by winter snow and ice operations making them useless at the time when they are needed most. Recessing the markers prevents the plows from scraping the markers off, and motorists are given an added safety benefit during the winter months.

“Damage to markers during winter operations requires us to replace them during the summer. We don’t own a grinder for this type of work. It is more cost effective to contract the replacement work, as it only takes about two weeks each summer to do that.

“The contractor grinds the locations and we place the (reflectors) in the grind outs. The reason we only have a two-week window this year for our grind outs is that we have caught up with a backlog we used to have. The only grind outs we are doing now are those associated with the county road crews that are doing maintenance overlays and chip seals,” Jeff said.

“We have countywide criteria.  All county roads are treated the same.  First, the road has to have a striped centerline.  Secondly, the posted speed limit must be 35 mph or greater.  If a road meets those 2 criteria it gets recessed (reflectors).  Currently there are lower speed roads with (reflectors) on them, but they will not be replaced when they wear out.”

Snow, the bridge detour and the Sedgwick hill

The in basket: I was talking with Roger Wiley at the recent all-’60s-classes South Kitsap High School reunion and he asked a question I imagine was asked by interested parties during public meetings leading up to the South Colby bridge closure. But I hadn’t heard it before and didn’t know the answer.

With all Southworth Drive traffic routed to Sedgwick Road for the months the road is closed for replacement of the bridge, how can people expect to get up or down the steep hill on Sedgwick just east of Locker Road in a snowstorm. That’s where nearly all of the detoured traffic will get onto or off of Sedgwick, using the prescribed detour.

The out basket: Kitsap County has made one adjustment to its normal snow removal plan in recognition of the detour, says Doug Bear of its public works department.

It has added Lake Valley Road between Sedgwick and Long Lake to its list of priority plowing routes. A lot of savvy drivers probably have used a “flat-land” detour in past snows to get around that hill. It skirts the problem via Lake Valley, Long Lake, Mullenix, Olalla Valley and Banner roads, or in reverse order coming from the east.

“(The state), the ferry system, SK Fire & Rescue, South Kitsap schools, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Postal Service are all aware of this project,” Doug said. “Both Locker Road and SE Southworth Drive are primary routes in our snow and ice plan. SR 160 is a primary route for the state, and usually receives prompt attention during snow and ice events.

“We are actively working with (the state) to develop inclement weather contingencies for SR 160, up to and including assistance in treating and plowing that stretch of the highway between Locker and Banner.”

The county doesn’t usually divert any of its plows to a state highway during snow, so that is another  departure from past practice and will be done at just the one location for the duration of the bridge project.

They won’t sign the route that goes out to Mullenix during a snow, as they haven’t the past, but will rely on drivers to figure it out.”We don’t have any official ‘snow’ routes posted,” Doug said. “Rather we use the priority and secondary route approach as outlined in our snow and ice removal policy.” You can see that at http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/snowplow.htm and it’s a good resource to understand what to expect of the county when it snows, irrespective of the detour and Sedgwick Hill.

How’s Kitsap’s new salt brine working this week?


The in basket: Mile Hill Drive near Woods Road in the area in which I live was treacherously icy Sunday morning, even though I had seen one of the Kitsap County’s tanker trucks there Saturday morning spraying the salt brine solution the county had introduced to its arsenal of ice and snow fighters. By Monday morning, the road was bare and dry.

I asked if the solution was living up to expectations.

The out basket: Doug Bear, spokesman for the county’s public works, said he ” had quite the opposite experience,” finding the roads near the Old Clifton Road church where he is directing a play to be bare and dry most of the weekend. “Overall it was very successful in most areas,” he said. “The key is having a period of dry road to apply the brine before the freeze. Based on my conversation with the road supervisors this morning salt-brine is an effective tool to add to our snow and ice arsenal.

He took exception to a suggestion I had heard that reducing cracked windshield claims against the county from the small rocks in sand spread on the roads was a motivating factor in going to brine. 

“It seems a bit cynical to me to assume we would place damage claims above road safety,” Doug said. . “We still use sand and always will. There are many applications where sand is the best tool to use. Salt brine is not a cure-all, and has its limits. It does allow us to use less sand under certain circumstances, which should, ultimately lead to less claims. “But it certainly isn’t even a benefit we considered when we made the decision to use salt brine. “We want to make roads as safe as possible in inclement weather, and whether it is salt or sand, we will use whatever it takes to reach that goal.

The brine solution did cut the amount of sand that would otherwise have been needed on the county roads last weekend nearly in half, he said.

Thursday’s heavy snow was another matter.

“The primary benefit the brine mixture offers is the ability to keep snow and ice from adhering to road surfaces, rather than melting snow. This helps keep roads clear in light snow, and helps make plowing easier in heavier snow. Once you get past a couple of inches of snow, cars compact whatever there is and that can inhibit the ability of the salt brine to prevent adhesion to the road surface. This results in the compact snow and ice on the roads today.

” It does make plowing more efficient because the bond between the compact snow and ice and the road is not as strong.”

The county expects it to remain effective with temperatures into the teens and maybe single digits.

“We use salt brine the same way we use sand,” Doug said. “It’s used first on hills, at intersections, around corners, in areas that remain shaded most of the day, bridge decks, and known areas that are prone to icing. It is also used, like sand, in other areas as conditions warrant. We have three trucks equipped to distribute salt brine, one for each road district. They follow the same priorities described in the county’s snow plowing plan in choosing where to spray.

You can see that plan online at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/snowplow.htm.


Will salt brine hurt wire in highway structures?


The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston noted the Road Warrior about Kitsap County plans to add salt brine to its ice-control measures on county roads this winter (you can find in on the Road Warrior blog if you missed it) and e-mailed to say, “Been watching with interest the new style of retainer wall, both  

the county and the state have been using a lot. 

“A considerable amount of the new (Highway) 305 expansion in Poulsbo is done this way, galvanized metal grid, then filled with compacted rock,” Jerry said. 

“Seemed effective and efficient … until I read that Kitsap is going to start using salt compounds on roads this winter,” he wrote. “While this stuff  

is obviously galvanized, I suspect the overall life of the metal  

component of those retainer walls just dropped by a third.

“While the salt compound may be cheaper up front, I wonder what the longer term costs will be,” Jerry wrote. “Any estimates?”

The out basket: Those are called gabion baskets and have been around for decades, usually inside retaining walls. They have a line of them for what appear to be decorative purposes on the downhill side of the new Kitsap County administrative building in Port Orchard. I haven’t gotten anybody to tell me why they were chosen, so my best guess so far is that they provide a wall that skateboarders can’t skate on.

The brine solution is to be used only on county roads this winter, so unless vehicles drag it with them, state highway impacts wouldn’t be great. 

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works said the impacts on county roads aren’t expected to be any greater. “We checked with Pierce County, Washington State Department of

Transportation, and the California Department of Transportation to see

if they have had problems with salt-brine and gabion mesh corrosion,” Doug said. “None of the agencies noticed any significant deterioration. An extensive

study was conducted by CALTRANS and is available here:

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/hydrology/gabion.htm,” he said.

There’ll be salt brine on Kitsap County roads this winter

The in basket: John Quatermass of Gig Harbor says he’s heard Kitsap County plans to introduce a salt product to its battle with roadway ice and snow this winter.  He wonders if it’s true.

The out basket: Yes, says Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works. He will be announcing the change in a day or two, with a question-and-answer format that addresses the most common question motorists have about salt – how much car damage will it cause. 

The product to be used isn’t granular salt, but a brine solution that will be sprayed on the roads and contain 23.3 percent sodium chloride. The upcoming new release calls it “the safest and most cost-effective anti-icing product available.”

Many people “have stories about how chemicals affected their cars when they lived back east,” it says, seeking to allay fears created by that experience.

This area’s snow and ice storms are relatively mild and brief, the news release says, and are usually followed by rain that washes corrosive anti-icers off the roadway. Further, it says, modern cars are much less vulnerable to corrosion due largely to what they are made of. Still, washing the underside of your car intermittently during the winter is a good idea, it says. 

The state has used a different chemical it sprays on trouble areas before ice is expected to form, inhibiting its formation. It accounts for the parallel dark lines you see on freeway ramps, bridges and curves during cold weather. Duke Stryker, head of the state maintenance department here, said the state uses some salt brine, but none here yet.

The county news release says alternatives to the salt brine cost two to three times more and cites a state transportation department study that found little difference in the corrosive properties of the brine compared to other ice-inhibiting products. 

It cited another state study that said environmental impacts, as measured on Highway 97 at Peshastin Creek in eastern Washington, were insignificant.

The entire news release will be on the public works Web site, www.kitsapgov.com/pw/ by the end of the week, Doug says.