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First big snowfall in Treasure Valley has crews gear up for winter season

Transportation agencies want to remind people of the differences between driving in the winter versus the summer.

BOISE, Idaho — People in the Treasure Valley woke up to icy and slick roads Friday morning, as the first significant snow of the season fell overnight. 

Crews with Ada County Highway District (ACHD) were up as early as 1:30 a.m. to treat and clear roads before the early morning rush. 

"What we saw today, was the snow fell on warm roads so then the snow melted into water, and then the temperature dropped very quickly, creating that icy situation," said Jennifer Berenger, the deputy director of maintenance for ACHD.

ACHD had 153 team members help treat the roads using all 63 of their units, 44 of which are equipped with plows to treat the roads with salt and sand. Berenger told KTVB they did not have to plow any roads in their jurisdiction Friday morning. 

"The trucks are equipped with plows, so we can use them when needed. But generally when we only have accumulations of only an inch or so, generally you're salt/sand mix and the magnesium chloride de-icing is what we tend to use," Berenger said. "Then we will plow when the accumulations get to the point where we need to move it off the road."

Even as crews did their best to clear roads for safe travels, Ada County Sheriff's office reported at least 29 car crashes Friday morning alone. 

As more icy and snowy road conditions are predicted for the near future, transportation agencies like ACHD and Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) want to remind people of the differences between driving in the winter versus the summer.

"There are two different elements that we always like to focus on, first is your preparation and second is your behavior behind the wheel," Jake Melder, a public information officer with ITD said.

ITD recommends people should have winter-proof wiper fluid when there is a need to clear the windshield. They also mention having things like a small shovel and cat litter in case someone were to slide into a ditch.

"If you're going to be going up in the mountains let people know and prepare for maybe some treacherous conditions," Melder said. He added that roads that were once gravel and unmaintained during the summer could still be unmaintained with a lot more snow over it in the winter.

"The biggest tip I can say is to plan for the conditions, watch the weather, know what's coming and plan your day appropriately," Berenger said.

Both agencies strongly advise people to take their time on the roads and slow down.

"That alone is going to solve 80 percent of the challenges you may find," Melder said. 

People are advised to give themselves more time to get to their destination and more space between cars they're behind.

"If they stop quickly you have time to respond and stop as well," Berenger said.

The same goes for snowplows and trucks.

"Stay back a certain distance so if they're putting the materials down on the road, so they're not getting splashed by them or getting some of those materials on your car," Berenger said.

Overnight, an ITD snowplow in Northern Idaho was hit by a truck that was trying to pass it on the right. ITD reported no one was hurt, but the plow was off the road for a couple of hours which spread crews thin and caused worse road conditions for other drivers.

"If you do feel the need to pass a plow, we generally don't recommend it, but definitely do not pass a plow on the right side. That's where all the snow is getting plowed to," Melder said. 

Both agencies told KTVB Friday, even with a national truck driver shortage, they have enough staffing to handle the roads this winter.

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