Monday, December 28, 2009

Ice, Ice Baby

I spent a few days up in Missouri over Christmas visiting my folks. It's about a 4 hour drive, so I usually leave around 11 and arrive just before 3pm. This year, I left early due to the threat of Winter weather. I planned to leave around 8 and arrive about Noon, but it was closer to 9:30 because I had to make a quick stop on my way out of town.

It rained all the way there, but the temperature was in the 50's, so I wasn't too concerned about ice or snow... I just wanted to get where I was going before it arrived: weatherman was saying "After 3pm", but later changed it to "After 10pm", so I guess I hurried for nothing.

Well, we only had about 1/3 to 1/2 an inch when all was said and done, not the 4 to 8 inches forecast. BUT there was some ice on the roads as there was a band of ice that followed the rain and preceded the snow. 

The day I came home, I was checking the weather forecasts on-line as well as road conditions and found a major difference between Arkansas and Missouri road reports. Missouri's maps are more detailed and Arkansas' you sort of have to guess.

This is a screenshot from MoDOT's website. You can see almost all the major roads and their current conditons. You can even zoom on on a particular areaNow, only the major roads actually have their conditions posted, but it gives you an idea what to expect and many of the secondary roads are posted so you can use the major roads for perspective.

Now we come to Arkansas' map:It's just a statewide map with only a few major roads posted. Looking for a particular region? Good luck! As you can see, many roads are not labeled and even more are not shown. Looking for AR 7 around Jasper? It's the unlabeled white line between Harrison & Russellville.

OK, I confess: it's better than nothing, but Missouri gets credit for having greater detail and the ability to zoom in on a particular region. It's almost ironic: AHTD just revamped their website a few months ago, but didn't improve their highway conditions map. No zoom, little detail... it just sort of sits there.

Now, moving to Oklahoma, only the "major" highways (Interstates & Turnpikes) are labeled and  everything is broken down by region:So, for Oklahoma, you have an idea of how each region is faring. Unlike Arkansas or Missouri, it's not color coded to specifics (snow, ice, etc), just varying degrees of how slick it is. 

Missouri's site is the most detailed, but it's also the slowest to load due to its level of detail. Arkansas and Oklahoma load fastest, but Arkansas has more detail when it comes to major roads, than Oklahoma does. Oklahoma doesn't snow as much detail, but it's a little better for "at a glance" road conditions.

My favorite of the three would be Missouri for its detail. Arkansas needs to label its highway better and Oklahoma while good for at a glance, could use a zoom in feature for specific areas.

Perhaps someday, states will work together to collaborate data so you don't have to jump to different state's sites to plan ahead for bad weather.

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