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The ins and outs of gathering MDT weather reports

Posted at 6:15 PM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-08 20:41:16-05

MISSOULA – The outlook for road conditions seems pretty bleak for Wednesday, and if you are hitting any of the highways in Montana you might be checking the Montana Department of Transportation’s road reports to see how conditions are.

But how does MDT get that information from the roads to the web?

The Montana Department of Transportation’s website has arguably the best tool to combat Montana’s unpredictable winter roads. Their road condition maps show you all you need to know to travel through the state safely, but how do they get that information?

“We poll our drivers, that’s P-O-L-L and we do that about twice a day and more if necessary. So every morning we will call our drivers and we will do it a section at a time cross the entire state of Montana and this information comes into each of the area offices, there’s 10 areas,” said MDT Maintenance Operations Manger Doug McBroom.

Each reporter has on average around 2,000 miles of road that they are receiving reports on. They take that information and put it in an online system that updates the conditions map and the 511 phone report

“That is all entered into a basic computer software system and that computer software system updates the map that you are talking about, which is on our website. But it also updates our telephonics, the 511 and it usually does it 10 to 15 minutes from the time that we actually enter in it to the time it updates,” McBroom added.

MDT monitors a lot of roadways here in Montana and some demand a little more attention due to their volatility. In Western Montana, passes like Lookout, Lost Trail and Lolo Pass demand a little more monitoring to make sure everyone gets home safely.

McBroom also told KPAX that morning report usually occur before 6 a.m. and afternoon reports come in around 3:30 to 4 p.m. so checking the MDT condition map early in the morning or anytime after 4:30 p.m. gives you the most accurate report of the day.