Highway Super: In southern Onondaga County's hills, clearing snow drifts is a tricky task

Photo courtesy Vitali Pantchak

Forecasts indicate similar weather that contributed to a large crash that shut down a portion of Interstate 81 last week may come to Central New York this week.

Snow squalls and poor driving conditions took drivers by surprise on the highway in southern Onondaga County Friday evening, causing 40 to 50 cars to pile into each other.

Those not involved in the crash found themselves stuck in a large backlog of vehicles unable to get around the crash scene.

Authorities said there were no serious injuries.

Lafayette Highway Superintendent John Greeley says clearing the roads that wind through the hills of the southern Onondaga County town can be tricky - and hazardous conditions at times are nearly impossible to prevent.

"It can be raining in Nedrow and you can have severe winter conditions on 81, and incidentally 81 is plowed 24 hours a day, but they could have just gone by and five minutes later the road could turn hazardous," Greeley said. "It's just the way it is."

"We're in the higher elevations where the wind is blowing," Greeley added. "The road temperature could be 33, 34 degrees, but as soon as that wet heavy snow starts coming down really, really hard it cools the road down enough and that wet snow freezes up and turns into hard packed ice."

Greeley says the hazardous conditions weren't limited to I-81 on Friday — there were a number of minor accidents on roads parallel to the interstate like U.S. Route 11, he said.

His advice should similar conditions arrive this week: exercise caution.

"The out-of-towners just have to pay attention to the radio stations and pay attention to the message boards that are telling them and try to do the best they can to navigate," Greeley said.

In the meantime, Greeley and his plow drivers are doing everything they can to make sure snow is off the road and attempting to minimize the threat of dangerous snow drifts.

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