Snow­plow sim­u­la­tor of­fers rare prac­tice

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Nomaan Mer­chant Snow­plow B DEB­O­RAH CAN­NON / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

DAL­LAS — In an area that gets a mere 3 inches of snow a year, Dal­las snow­plow drivers live in fear of ma­jor win­ter storms like the one that crip­pled their city al­most two years ago, the week be­fore it was to host the Su­per Bowl.

The drivers aren’t the only ones wor­ried. So high­way of­fi­cials in at least nine states are us­ing a so­phis­ti­cated sim­u­la­tor to give plow drivers a chance to prac­tice snow re­moval in any weather. It works like a video game, recre­at­ing slick pave­ment, poor vis­i­bil­ity and even chil­dren or an­i­mals bolt­ing across the road. In a vir­tual col­li­sion, drivers hear crash­ing noises and see a cracked wind­shield.

Be­cause Dal­las road crews don’t drive plows very of­ten, “we have to prac­tice a lot more,” said Eric Hem­phill, main­te­nance di­rec­tor for the North Texas Toll Author­ity, which man­ages 850 miles of roads in and around Dal­las and Fort Worth. “We don’t have that lux­ury — or that pres­sure.”

It’s al­most an an­nual tra­di­tion for a few inches of snow to shut down warm-weather cities as win­ter-hard­ened North­ern­ers laugh. Since snow comes so rarely, Dal­las and other ma­jor Texas pop­u­la­tion cen­ters can’t jus­tify elab­o­rate,

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