By Mark Abrams

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (CBS) — With the official start of winter still over a month away, Penndot crews across the region are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

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Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Gene Blaum says the salt depots are stocked with tons of salt across the five-county Philadelphia region, and plow blades are sharpened and ready to go.

He says managers also have been looking over the long-range forecasts from a variety of sources and mapping out their strategy “whether it’s going to be an average winter, above-average, maybe below average precipitation possibly.   We’ve heard various scenarios for the winter season, but from our standpoint we prepare for above-average winter.”

Blaum says Penndot is relying more than ever on the salt-brine mixture it spreads on the highways ahead of a storm to make sure the snow doesn’t stick right away.

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“Initially, probably ten years ago, we did the major interstate highways and a few other expressways.  Now we cover all our expressways and all our major arterial traffic routes” with the brine solution, he says.

Blaum says it’s been a while since we’ve had a really rough winter, with salt usage the barometer.

“Last year, we used over 65,000 tons of salt in the five-county Philadelphia region.  The year before that was 37,000 (tons).  And you can combine those two years and they don’t total up to what we used in the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, when we used over 100,000 tons of salt (each winter).”

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