LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The roads may be looking better since the snow started falling on Christmas, but the Arkansas Highway Department said the work is not done.
Crews are still working around the clock spreading sand and salt, trying to clear any hazardous areas. While they may see the light at the end of the tunnel, the costs of a winter storm like this could take weeks to calculate.
"There is all kinds of things that happen during a snow storm," said Randy Ort, Spokesperson for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.
It only happens every once in awhile, but when it does, snow and ice storms wreak havoc on Arkansas roads.
"The winter months are the hardest on the road," explains Ort. "Obviously, you may have more traffic out there during other times of the year but in terms of the weather, the winter months are the hardest on the roads."
Snow and ice covered roads can cause a major problem for drivers, but when moisture from the snow and ice gets into cracks and crevaces, it creates another problem for the highway department.
"When it freezes, that moisture expands, causes voids, allows more moisture to get in there. It freezes and causes bigger voids so that's how pot holes are created," said Ort.
Snow plows and sand and salt trucks will run 24 hours a day until the roads are clear, racking up millions in fuel and personnel costs.
"We keep track of how much we use our equipment. We have a cost tied to that. Also the cost of the materials, we know how much of that we use. We keep track of that and the cost of man power," said Ort.
The Highway Department spends between $5 - $6 million every winter repairing Mother Nature's effects, not including the damages caused by drivers.
"We have damage to our guardrails, for example. A lot of accidents occur in snowy weather so we have to monitor that and maintain those as best we can," said Ort.
The highway department is prepared to pay for cleanup costs, despite how much they add up.
"It's a necessity. We're going to spend however much is needed," said Ort.
Another interesting problem the highway department has is salt. They use it to break down ice and create traction for drivers, but it's actually very corrosive to concrete, especially bridges and overpasses. That is something they have to assess as well.
Financially, Ort said every winter is different. A mild winter could cost less than a million dollars, a rough one could reach $20 million. All of that cost is covered under the Highway Maintenance Budget.
The Highway Department said they will be assessing the damage and repair the most immediate problems, such as broken guardrails and damaged highway signs, first. The long term repairs will begin in early spring.
Check on road conditions before heading out
Ice storm update from Mayor Mark Stodola