NDOT launches Snow Plow Tracker

January 23, 2019

The Nebraska Department of Transportation is fighting back against Mother Nature’s recent wintry mix by giving Platte County residents and the rest of the state a new tool to help them stay safe on the roads.

NDOT on Tuesday announced the launch of its new and free online Plow Tracker program, which gives people another view of roadways – from the plow driver’s perspective via forward-facing dashboard cameras.

“It’s a very intuitive camera that is mounted in the cab of the truck,” NDOT’s Jeni Campana told The Telegram.

It’s easy, too. Go to https://plows.nebraska.gov/index.html to view NDOT plow trucks on all state highways through an interactive map. The Snow Plow Tracker automatically refreshes every minute, providing timely information regarding NDOT snow removal operations. Plow trucks will be only visible when on NDOT-maintained snow removal routes throughout the state as designated by a blue line. Roads without the blue line are the jurisdiction of county or local entities for snow removal.

This system works as a complement to the Nebraska 511 system, which gives travelers an idea of road conditions throughout the state. Essentially, it gives motorists access to additional information to help them make informed decisions prior to traveling.

“Implementing Plow Tracker gives the (residents) of Nebraska an additional tool to aid them before they head out the door,” NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis said, in a provided statement. “This is just another example of the innovation we use to help our customers make engaged and informed decisions about their travel during inclement weather.”

The decision to implement the technology, Campana said, came about after Nebraska officials saw several other states, including Iowa, introduce it and get good feedback from its residents.

“… It gives you a good snapshot of the roadways – it gives you an idea of what the roadways are from the view of our trucks and it also lets you know when our trucks are out there,” Campana said. “It’s basically just another tool to determine if you should be driving.”

Brett Albright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service based out of Valley, said the new site is an asset to forecasters like himself and anyone needing to travel throughout the state.

“The site itself is pretty useful. You can click around the state and see the map where all the plows are,” he said. “You just point and click … It’s great to have (these cameras) in real time.”

Campana stressed the new cameras are beneficial because they provide another view to complement cameras that already provide perspective from up high on poles along highways. But, ultimately people have to use good judgment before deciding to travel in the winter.

“Just because it looks clear doesn’t mean it always is clear,” she said, adding driving conditions can sometimes be worse than they actually look on a camera.

Residents are urged to be alert, be aware and check the most up to date weather and travel conditions available through 511, Nebraska’s Advanced Traveler Information System. The system is available at all times via phone by dialing 511, online at www.511.nebraska.gov/, or Nebraska 511’s smartphone app.

“Plow Tracker will serve as a supplement to the current 511 system,” said Tom Sands, NDOT operations manager, in a provided statement. “Many other states are using similar technology and found it extremely helpful to their users. We have no doubt the (residents) of Nebraska will find similar usefulness in making travel decisions during the winter months. Motorists should be aware that weather conditions are often worse than they appear on the dash cameras. In addition, please remember the views from the cameras only show a portion of the roadway. Conditions may be significantly different through a stretch of highway.”

Albright echoed a similar sentiment in a separate conversation, noting that spotting black ice on the roads using a camera is basically impossible. Ultimately, he said, people just have to exercise with caution before making a decision to get on the road and again once in transit when weather is questionable.

“Conditions can change very quickly here in Nebraska, as we all know,” he said. ”(The new Plow Tracker program) does have limitations … It’s another tool – it is just part of the equation.”

The NSP Highway Helpline is available 24 hours per day for motorists in need of assistance. Drivers can reach NSP by dialing *55 from any cell phone. Call 911 for any emergency.

Columbus residents shouldn’t expect any significant snow accumulation in the coming week, maybe some flurries, but they’ll know it is winter. Albright said Columbus should anticipate chilly weather today, with a high around 18 by tonight. He said a cold front coming through the region will result in a wind chill bottoming out around -5 by Thursday afternoon.

“No accumulating snow, but it’s going to be winter,” he affirmed.

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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