Road commission debuts new online plow locator ahead of weekend storm

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SAGINAW COUNTY (WJRT) - (01/10/20) - Friday was the calm before the storm at the Saginaw County Road Commission.

As you might expect road crews loaded up their plow trucks with salt and made sure all the equipment is working properly.

But this time around they had to prepare for other elements.

"We've got our trucks ready, loaded up with salt and brine. We've got our signs loaded up on trucks if we need them. We've got our chainsaws checked out and ready to go. We've got our gradall, backhoes and loaders ready if we have to push a tree off, so we'll be ready," explained SCRC Director of Maintenance Dan Medina.

The signs are ready to go in case roads have to be closed due to flooding.

The chainsaws would be used to cut up downed trees that end up on the roads, while the other heavy equipment would move the debris away.

Typically crews don't have that all out at once, but this weekend is shaping up to be different.

And there is something you can do to help.

Fewer cars on the road means road crews can clear the way much faster. "I hope people listen, if they don't need to travel tomorrow it's a good idea not to. With everything we got predicted to come at us, if you can stay home, please do," Medina said.

The SCRC is debuting a new online tool this weekend.

Since 2009 the road commission has had an online plow locator system, but the old version had limitations.

The new version, Plow Locator, works on both home computers and mobile devices.

GIS Analyst Mariah Kelly and others have worked to make the new version as user-friendly as possible.

"You can check on where our plow trucks have been during a snow storm, and also just make better decisions on your travels for that day," Kelly explained.

The Plow Locator has an area dedicated to teaching people how to use the tool. "Provide you with step-by-step guides, some little quick videos," Kelly said.

The color-coded map will show the last 36 hours of plowing data.

It's important to note the system only displays plowing data, not salting data, as the tracking system is on the belly blade.

"If there isn't snow, of course there's nothing to push," Kelly said. "So I can only tell you where our trucks have been if that belly blade is down and we're actually moving snow."

Not only will the Plow Locator help you decide if it's safe to travel, it'll help others who have important decisions to make. "Superintendents of school districts, emergency services, help them make better decisions on how to prepare their crews," Kelly said.

The Plow Locator system will also show the road commission if they missed any areas.

The SCRC is responsible for 1850 miles of roads throughout the county.

Other roads are maintained by the Michigan Department of Transportation and the city of Saginaw. The new online map will tell users who is responsible for the maintenance of a specific road.

Click on the 'Related Link' with this story to be directed to the road commission's website.

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