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Miles add up as crews work to keep roads clear

Published: Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 2:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 1:47 p.m. CDT
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(Jim Dallke -
McHenry County DOT Maintenance Worker Bob Westman plows the seven mile stretch of Algonquin Road from Route 31 to Route 47 Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. Westman can cover more than 300 miles plowing up and down Algonquin Road during his 12 to 16 hour shift. (Jim Dallke -

ALGONQUIN – If you were able to drive on Algonquin Road from Route 31 to Route 47 Monday, you have Bob Westman to thank.

Westman, a McHenry County Department of Transportation highway maintenance worker, will have driven close to 300 miles plowing up and down the seven-mile stretch of road after his 12- to 16-hour shift.

“With a winter like this, you can get pretty worn out,” he said. “But it gets to be something you really like to do. You enjoy doing it. Every storm is different.”

Monday was Westman’s 27th anniversary at the McHenry County Department of Transportation, but don’t expect a cake or celebration. Snow often fell heavy at times, and any moment not on the road could mean disastrous travel conditions for drivers.

“Some newscasters said we could get as much as 1 to 3 inches an hour,” he said. “That would be real hard to keep up with.”

Three and half inches of new snow was reported in Woodstock, with up to 4½ inches possible in southern parts of the county, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Bardou said.

With pavement as wide as Algonquin Road, it takes two snowplows at a time to clear the street. Westman takes the lead and plows the far left side of the lane, with a plow several feet behind plowing the right side.

The plows also are dispensing a salt mixture, pioneered by McHenry County DOT Supervisor Mark DeVries, made of up 80 percent salt brine, 10 percent chloride and 10 percent beet juice. DeVries travels the world instructing other transportation departments how to effectively use the road treatment

“He came up with the liquid – the super mix,” Westman said. “We started making our own brine. We have out own blending system. We make our own blends. he was very instrumental in [the road treatment].”

Temperatures are supposed to creep above freezing, with highs predicted at 36 degrees on Tuesday. Wind gusts could be up to 25 mph. There is the potential for freezing rain Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

The first day of spring is March 20.

• Chelsea McDougall contributed to this report.

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