Snow, sleet and freezing rain have transformed Texoma roadways into ice rinks in recent weeks, and have made traveling extremely hazardous. To help inhibit icing, both TxDOT and Wichita Falls city crews deploy a rock combination called "chat."
"As it dissolves, hopefully the aggregate of this type of chat gets into the ice and provides traction," explained Wichita Falls Street Superintendent Larry Krugle.
Wichita Falls has six mountable spreaders that are employed during icy weather. The city is broken up into six zones, and trucks go out on twelve-hour shifts deploying ice chat during winter events.
Chat is 60 percent rock shards, 30 percent expanded shell rock, which helps absorb moisture and 10 percent rock salt. The rock shards come from a Zach Burkett quarry, and the expanded shell rock comes from a quarry south of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The two are then combined to provide traction,
So, why not just use rock salt? Deputy Director of the Wichita Falls Public Works Teresa Rose explains...
"We have high salinity in our soil, and the salinity in our water is a lot higher. So in order to not have that run off of the additional salt into the water or into the ground, many of the cities and other entities went to this rock mixture, and it works really well."
While chat acts like any other kind of soil that goes down the drain, too much chat can cause problems.
"We don't want it to silt up and cause clogging in our drainage system," Rose said. "When you have multiple events in a row its really difficult to get it out there and get it all done."
Especially because it takes two to three weeks to sweep up leftover chat for the entire city.
For the last bout of snow and freezing rain, Krugle's teams left the chat down, and with more winter weather possible mid-week, Krugle says...
"I don't know how much sweeping I'm going to do, probably not a lot. Most of it will still be out."
Leftover chat does cause a fair amount of dust when you drive on it, and sometimes, small rocks can be kicked up by your tires and hit your windshield. But without it, city officials say, we'd have to rely solely on mother nature to warm things up.