County, Manasquan OEM rescue dozens stranded on Route 18

FREEHOLD, NJ – With Monmouth County roads showing blacktop one day after the snow stopped falling, county road crews have been deployed to assist the state. This afternoon, four county tandem trucks with snowplows and heavy equipment began clearing beleaguered Route 18.

Meanwhile, the county Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Manasquan OEM  rescued about two dozen motorists who had become stranded on Route 18. A convoy of Army trucks Manasquan normally uses for tidal flooding was dispatched Sunday night and rescued 12 to 18 people. The same convoy was deployed last night and picked up another 11. Route 18 had not been plowed.

On Sunday and Monday nights, county snowplow operators also cleared roads assisting Jersey Central Power & Light Co. personnel who were responding to power outages.

“County roads such as Routes 524, 537, 547 and many others are showing blacktop today as a result of the work county road crews have been doing since 10 a.m. Sunday morning,” said Freeholder John P. Curley, liaison to the county Department of Public Works and Engineering. “The county’s public works and engineering crews do an excellent job keeping county roads safe and drivable.”

Monmouth County’s Public Works crews have been working since 10 a.m. Sunday morning when they began applying salt brine to county roads in advance of the predicted snowfall. The salt brine helps prevents snow and ice from bonding to the road surface, making plowing that much easier after the snowfall. As a result, most county roads showed blacktop today.

Monmouth County is responsible for about 1,000 lane miles of roads in the county. The county has 115 trucks outfitted with spreading and plowing capabilities. About 200 personnel were working to clear the snow from roadways as a result of this storm.

“One of the challenges with this storm has been the wind,” said John W. Tobia, director of the county’s Department of Public Works and Engineering. “The one-two punch of the steady 10 to 15 mph winds and gusts of more than 40 mph have been undoing some of the road work, but we have been diligent and have cleared the county roads – most of them are down to blacktop.”

“We began gearing up for this storm on Saturday,” Tobia added. “We opened up our snow room to monitor the storm’s progress and we began dispatching crews from the county’s nine highway districts on Sunday morning.

At that time crews began applying the liquid salt brine. Then, before the snow actually started falling, the crews began applying rock salt treated with magnesium chloride.

“The key was to keep the ice and snow from bonding to the road surface,” Tobia said. “Some lanes were slushy instead of iced over. That’s generally the first step before the plows come by and push it all aside.”

According to the National Weather Service, snow and windy conditions began in Monmouth County late Sunday morning and produced a higher than average snowfall overnight Sunday into Monday morning. Acting Gov. Steve Sweeney declared a state of emergency in New Jersey due to the blizzard that moved through the state during that time.

Monmouth County concentrates its efforts on county roads first and then works to assist municipalities with their plowing needs. Through shared service agreements, county road crews helped clear roads in Howell, Wall and Upper Freehold townships. They also helped plow the National Guard Armory in Red Bank. The towns reimburse the county for any resources used.

A number of towns also purchase magnesium-treated salt from the county at a lower cost.

This is the third year the county has been using the salt brine combined with magnesium chloride-treated rock salt. The salt brine and a pre-application of treated rock salt prevent the snow and ice from bonding to the roads, and the treated rock salt is environmentally friendly. It does not burn the grass or other roadside vegetation nor does it corrode the trucks or the steel bridge spans.

The new rock salt is much more efficient than the old rock salt, which was very corrosive to bridge structures, roadside vegetation, the roadway itself and trucks and equipment, Tobia said.

“We have found that magnesium chloride-treated rock salt is much more effective and, therefore, there is a savings in man hours and material,” he said. “We use approximately 30 to 50 percent less material and reduction in spreading trips, depending on the snow event, for the same result. By reducing the number of trips, we are reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

As a result, there have been far fewer telephone calls from local police departments about trouble spots, Tobia said. Typically, when police dispatchers call to report icy conditions – usually on bridges or curved roadways – the county dispatches additional trucks to perform some spot treatments.

“County highway personnel set the standard and example on snow and ice control operations,” Curley said.