Weather sensors detect potential slick spots across MO, KS when winter weather strikes

Technology measures bridge & road temperature

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As temperatures drop, roads can become hazardous, especially when there's precipitation or fog. MoDOT and KDOT have several tools to keep you safe on the roads, such as weather road sensors.

These sensors measure pavement temperatures to monitor when roads are below freezing.

"There is a fairly dense deployment in the Kansas City metro area of weather sensors...Johnson County and Overland Park have kinda taken the lead with a stormwatch system with a pretty dense deployment of not only pavement but bridge deck temperature sensors," Kansas City SCOUT Project Manager Mark Sommerhauser said.

This tool often shows a big difference in temperature on the roads compared to bridges.

"You can get a 2 or 3-degree difference in a bridge deck temperature," Sommerhauser said.

That's because the air cools a bridge on two sides versus one side on a road.

This sets up the perfect scenario for something dangerous to form -- black ice. 

Sommerhauser said the most dangerous thing about black ice is that it's harder to see.

You often hear us say "Be careful over bridges and overpasses" when we're concerned about black ice due to lower temperatures.

I-35 and West Pennway Street seems to be a big problem spot around the KC metro.

Sommerhauser explained why.

"I-35 from West Pennway into the downtown loop -- you have a long bridge viaduct, it goes uphill gradually from Union Station up to Broadway and with the heavy amount of truck traffic, if you start losing friction, trucks can start spinning its wheels and you can get major, major issues." 

Road crews rely on the weather sensor technology to quickly treat bridges and overpasses that may get slick. A good rule of thumb is to always slow down, because any accident could add several minutes or hours to your and others' commute.

Clearly that small margin between safe and slick roads is a challenge at this time of year, but from forecast models to weather sensors, all the way to roadside crews, tools are being used to keep you safe on the roads during the winter.

This map shows where road weather sensors are installed and maintained by SCOUT or MoDOT:

Follow this link to find the road weather sensors in Johnson County and view the current road/bridge temperatures.

MoDOT hopes to add more sensors around the region to this website within the next year.

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