By Alex Fees
St. Louis (KSDK) - Wednesday was a bright and beautiful day, and there is no threatening weather on the way.
Still, Missouri Department of Transportation plows and road crews were out in force.
There were 220 trucks and 500 people at work, as if freezing precipitation were falling from the skies. It was a statewide dress rehearsal; an opportunity to get all plows on the trucks and make sure everything is working properly.
Becky Allmeroth is MoDOT District Maintenance Engineer.
"It went really well," said Allmeroth, late Wednesday morning. "We had some radio and small little bugs to work out, and little things happened with the plows that would happen during a normal storm. So it's great to have the opportunity to change plow blades and get employees comfortable with the equipment and ready to go."
There was one weather event last year where MoDOT received some criticism for the condition of St. Louis area roads. Allmeroth was asked if Wednesday's drill was in response to that.
"Not really," she said. "We've always done this but it is our opportunity. We did have a storm where Mother Nature threw us a curve ball. So this is our opportunity to practice that. We're pretending Mother Nature is throwing us a curveball today. So it's those storms, and what we did learn last year is when we have a storm that's coming in before the a.m. or p.m. rush, we're just going to assume that we're not going to be able to get our plows out there and put our application down to make it through that rush hour."
A MoDOT news release indicates the state agency spends $42 million annually "to keep roads clear in the winter and help motorists get to their destinations safely and quickly."
So is a practice drill like this is a good use of taxpayers' money?
"It is," said Allmeroth. "It's what we do to prepare for winter to make sure we are ready, and there is nothing more important than winter operations whenever there's a storm that comes in. And that's the expectation of the taxpayers."
Four people polled by NewsChannel 5 agreed.
Maureen Moore said, "I know it's going to be a cost to the taxpayers. But isn't that a better deal than when we do get the snow and things don't work properly?"
"I do think so, yes," said Mandy Gaynor, in response to whether such a drill is a good use of tax money. "Safety's everything. I would rather they spend my tax money on my safety than something frivolous."
Sarah Schaffer said, "I definitely think they need to be out there preparing and getting us ready for the snow we're going to get this year."
Dale Frosch said, "I think it's a good idea, especially where they use this liquid salt, you might say, on overpasses and stuff."
MoDOT officials say Wednesday's drill was also a chance for them to connect with officials with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies.