Fewer Snow Fences in Illinois - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Fewer Snow Fences in Illinois

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MOLINE - It has been less than a week since the first real snow of the season barreled its way through our area. Now, as more snow is on the way, snow fences in Illinois still seem to be a rare sight.

For anyone who was out driving in last week's winter storm, the memory of difficult, dangerous road conditions is all too fresh. Heavy snowfall, and especially high winds, caused major problems on the interstates, and sent hundreds of cars off the roads across our area.

What's missing from that picture: Snow fences to help block snow from drifting onto the roadways.

"Actually, we haven't used snow fences for several years for several reasons," Kevin Marchek, Illinois Department of Transportation Operations Engineer for District 2 said. "Probably the biggest reason was we've done a lot of improvements to the roadways," he explained.

Thanks to better engineering through things like deeper ditches and landscaping along roadways to create natural barriers, snow fences have become few and far between in illinois.

"We do if it's an area that really needs it, but we've cut way back on the installation of snow fences," Marchek said.

For many of us, the temporary barriers set up at the Quad Cities International Airport are likely some of the only snow fences we have seen so far this winter.

But in a winter where we have already seen countless cars in ditches because of the weather, the question, of course, becomes: Would snow fences have helped?

"It's hard to say. In most areas where the drifting occurred it probably wouldn't have made any difference," Marchek answered.

Captain Steve Ven Huizen of the Rock Island County Sheriff's Office agrees:

"We were still going to have vehicles traveling off the roadway just because of the high velocity winds," he said.

According to Ven Huizen, the big problem in last week's storm was visibility - not drifting. 

Drivers can't stay on the roads as well when they can't see the edge of it, he pointed out.

And, he added, even where drifting was an issue, snow fences could only do so much.

"You can never have enough snow fence to cover the amount of roadway where you're going to have blowing and drifting snow," he explained.

When it comes to putting up snow fences, the Illinois Department of Transportation says budget cuts also play a role.

"Snow fences cost money and it costs labor to put them up, 6 sec. but we do the best we can with the materials and the staff and the budget that we have," Marchek said.

DOT crews have installed the barriers in areas that need them when and where they can.

The best advice for drivers: Don't rely on snow fences. In weather like we saw last week, just stay off the roads.