Sunday, February 25, 2007

Forestry and Winter Driving

After the Valentine's Day storm in Pennsylvania there has been much criticism of PennDOT, the State Police, and PEMA (PA Emergency Mgt. Agency) over the blockage and closing of all of Interstate 78 and parts of Interstate 80 and 81. Some motorists were left stranded 12 or more hours.

Although the plowing and storm management operations should be evaluated, I think we should also look at how forest vegetation can be used to manage snow build-up on highways. By planting long rows of trees across open areas snow drifts can be prevented. This diagram comes from a Univ. of Minnesota report that explains how big a living snow fence should be to have the maximum benefit. ( ) If less snow accumulates, then plowing is quicker, easier, and more effective.

If forests are too close to, or overhang, a road the shading effect can favor ice buildup, which leads to the problems we had in PA after the Valentine's Day storm. Rights of way have to be cleared of trees and shrubs to let the sun in.

Even in the age of the automobile, it's better to let Mother Nature take care of our road maintenance as much as possible.

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