JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Transportation is down hundreds of workers. So, in this snowstorm that’s affecting the state, MoDOT is using what it has to get through.
One of the biggest messes for MoDOT on Wednesday was Interstate 70 in central Missouri, where drivers were stranded for hours after multiple semis jackknifed.
By Wednesday late afternoon, there were six inches of snow on the ground, with more to come. MoDOT is working around the clock around the state to clear roadways and besides being short workers, the department is also bouncing back from an outbreak of COVID.
“We have about 1,500 pieces of equipment that we utilize statewide,” MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said. “In total, we need about 3,400 people to do that.”
McKenna said that in a storm like this, operators work a 12-hour shift and the plows run constantly. Besides drivers, the department needs mechanics and people to help load the trucks with materials to use on the roads.
“If we’ve ended up with a lot of rain ahead of the storm, we really can’t use any of the treatments ahead of that because it would just wash off the road,” McKenna said.
Snow caused havoc on area roads, including major interstates like I-70 Wednesday.
“When both lanes are jammed with semis, the emergency services folks are stuck in the same traffic,” McKenna said. “They [emergency response teams] will get in front of it and then we’ll close a facility up in advance of it and then run backwards through the next interchange and try to treat it and bring emergency vehicles in.
A big snowfall like this, which could bring more than a foot of snow to some parts of the state means a lot of work, but unlike large snowfalls in the past, this one is tough on the department because of staffing shortages.
“We’re down staff statewide,” McKenna said. “At the present about 400 from what we need for this type of event and in addition, a couple 100 people still ill with COVID. We had 700 cases in the month of January. Most of those people are back to work now.”