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Snowplow simulator offers rare chance to practice

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm •  Published: December 4, 2012
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Then, without warning, a child dashed onto the roadway. Peralta wasn't able to swerve in time. Later, he laughed, saying he had driven in snow before and knew not to use the gas nearly that much.

"It's a little bit different than the real deal," he said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety also uses the simulator in its local district offices, as do some agencies in states with generally mild winters such as Virginia and Kentucky. It's also used in Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, Maine, Utah and Oregon, L-3 Senior Training Manager George Perez said.

"The districts swear by it and say it makes a lot of difference, especially since most of our workers face snow and ice conditions infrequently," Texas DPS spokeswoman Veronica Beyer said.

Across the South, cities also use a variety of other methods to train snow-removal crews. Some hold snowplow "rodeos" that include obstacle courses and a series of questions on maintenance and proper use. Others visit departments in the North to learn from snow veterans.

Dallas' street services department recently had workers drive routes in dry weather to learn them before the next storm. The city also doubled its stock of sand and snow after it ran out during the Super Bowl.

But with 11,000 miles of pavement to clear and just 70 dump trucks for sand, Dallas will typically focus on major streets and leave residential areas alone, he said.

"Historically, we've done OK with the resources we've got on hand," Street Services Director Gilbert Aguilar said.

Mark DeVries, maintenance superintendent in McHenry County in suburban Chicago, trains departments across the country. He met with officials from Texas after the Super Bowl storm.

While he doesn't see many cities in the Sun Belt or South buying snowplows, DeVries said he tries to push them to stock up on sand and salt and to prepare for a snowstorm before it hits.

"Quite honestly, they don't want to make news for those reasons," he said. "When it happens, a 2-inch snow in Atlanta is a big deal."