The Missouri Department of Transportation’s gearing up for winter with the hiring of seasonal workers.
The agency plans to bring in up to 700 new employees who’ll assist with storm response and other operations performed in cold weather months.
Becky Allmeroth with MoDOT is concerned drivers will have more difficulty navigating snowy roads in the coming months after last year’s light winter. She says the department normally does a good job of letting the public know what to expect, but the unpredictability of storms in the state creates challenges. “We have storms that’ll come in where its 32 degrees and we’ll have 6 inches of snow, but it’s wet and easy to plow off. And then we have other storms that’ll come in where we have half an inch of snow, but its 15 degrees and our salt’s not working. That’s the biggest thing for us is just the fluctuations and the storms and the seasons.”
Allmeroth says predictions change on short notice in the state because the Rocky Mountains often throw storms off of their path, while the Missouri and Mississippi rivers can change their trajectory as well.
Allmeroth notes the agency’s also starting to closely monitor long range forecasts. She says “It’s looking like it’s going to be a cold winter for us, but average precipitation. For us, having an average, typical winter would be a blessing.”
Allmeroth also hopes there won’t be a repeat of three years ago when 30 inches of snow pounded the state. “It was so, so bitterly cold” says Allmeroth. “We had several storms that we were fighting that year where the temperatures dipped below zero. And once they dip below zero, none of our chemicals work. And we were having salt and some of our chemicals freeze up.”
A typical winter brings 20 inches of snow. Allmeroth says last year was unusually mild, which is somewhat concerning if drivers forget how to navigate the elements this season.
Missouri is also an innovator in that it’s the leader in the country with 82 “tow plows”. This machinery is towed behind the plow truck itself and allows for plowing of two to three lanes of traffic at one time. Allmeroth says several accidents have resulted from drivers not noticing the tow plows and trying to pass the trucks, not realizing the equipment is occupying the lane they’re in.
MODOT is now in the process of hiring seasonal employees and plans to have the personnel in place by the end of September. Those hired for the winter typically work through the end of February.
Seasonal employees are paid $12.69 per hour while working a standard 40-hour week. Emergency snow plow operators earn between $14.10 and $15.94 per hour, but don’t have guaranteed working hours.
To learn more about MoDOT’s winter operations, log onto modot.org or call 1-888-ASK-MODOT (888-275-6636).