Nov 8, 2021 8:42:59 AM / Brooke Loeffler / Winter storm conditions

How to Choose Product Based on Storm Conditions

Winter storms can take on a variety of different forms. Whether it’s ice storms, thick powder, slush, blinding blizzards, or a combination thereof, our goal is the same...clear roads fast. However, not all deicers are effective in all storm scenarios. Here we will talk about how to choose a road treatment product based on storm conditions.

How to Choose Product Based on Storm Conditions

First: Use Reliable Weather Forecasting

According to the Western Transportation Institute (WTI), snow fighting crews that use reliable weather forecasting experience:

  • More efficient use of manhours (less overtime, shorter work cycles)
  • More timely snow fighting response (including pre-treatments)
  • More responsible deicer usage (better for drivers, your budget, the environment, and infrastructure)

There are many weather forecasting apps out there, and the best of them rely on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center has a selection of forecast tools that snow crews can use to know what they are up against and plan their response. 

Second: Combine Weather and Road Data

Atmospheric data is only part of the puzzle. An effective snow fighting response needs an understanding of weather and road conditions. Data from a Road Weather Information System (RWIS) helps crews read “real-time” conditions on the ground. RWIS is a centralized hub that collects readings from road sensors. This data is combined with weather data to create a “nowcast” of conditions in a specific area. According to WTI: “the use of RWIS technologies can improve the efficiency and effectiveness as well as reduce the costs of highway winter maintenance practices.”

  • Click here to learn more about road surface sensors.

What near real time environmental data do you need?

  • Air temperature
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Type and amount of precipitation
  • Pavement temperature
  • Bridge temperature
  • Pavement conditions
  • Micro-climate information (large water sources near roads, road elevation, perma-shade, location of snow fences)

Selecting Road Treatments

When it comes to selecting road treatments, it is important to plan and not just react. Here are some general guidelines to consider when choosing which treatment to use.

*Note: Road aggregates like sand and gravel are not deicers or anti-icers. They do not lower the freezing temperature of ice and snow and are not included in the following sections.

Liquid anti-icer

Anti-icing/Pre-treatments

If you are following reliable storm forecasts, crews can deploy before the snow even begins to fly. A pre-treatment of liquid anti-icers or light applications of solid deicers can effectively prevent snow from even bonding to the pavement in the first place.

When to use:

  • Before all ice storms
  • Before snow storms at night
  • Before snow storms predicting heavy precipitation

Temperature Ranges

Not all deicing ingredients work efficiently at all temperatures. Remember that air temperature and pavement temperature differ most of the time; it is important to take both into consideration.

Over 20° F:

  • Anti-icers or solid deicers containing sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, or magnesium chloride

Under 20° F:

  • Anti-icers or solid deicers containing calcium chloride and/or magnesium chloride

Variable Temperatures: (when storm temps fluctuate above and below 20° F)

  • Anti-icers or solid deicers containing complex chlorides so you do not lose efficiency as temperatures rise or fall

Heavy Snowfall

For storms with heavy snow precipitation rates:

  • Use solid, granular deicers with variable gradation (granules large enough to penetrate to the road surface and begin brining)
  • Do not use lightweight, round pellets that have a hard time penetrating to the road surface
  • Do not use liquid anti-icing treatments after heavy snow has accumulated

Windy Conditions

Applying certain road treatments during high winds can be counterproductive. Driving winds can prevent some products from reaching the road before they can begin working. In some areas with continual high winds, road agencies may choose to plow only to reduce snow drifts, and pause on deicing applications.

High Wind Tips:

  • Use pre-wet granular deicers to reduce product waste during high winds
  • Do not use liquid anti-icing treatments during high winds
  • Do not use round pellet solid deicers that are already prone to bouncing and scattering off road surface

Ice Slicer®: For All Storm Conditions

Fortunately, Utah’s unique geology has created a versatile deicer treatment with high performance under all types of storm conditions.

Ice Slicer is effective for all storm conditions

Ice Slicer® is harvested from an ancient mineral deposit containing a powerful blend of complex chlorides and over 60 rare earth minerals.

  • Variety of granule sizes: perfect for a range of light to heavy snowfall rates
  • Complex chlorides: naturally occurring sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium chloride to perform above and below 20° F
  • Coarse grain texture to reduce bounce and scatter
  • Effective for pre-storm treatments and after snow accumulation
  • Restores road traction quickly in snow or ice storm conditions