City crews kept busy during, after storm
By SCOTT AUST
Monday's snow storm that dropped as much as 8.5 inches on part of Garden City kept city crews busy through New Year's Day, fighting to keep primary streets and intersections clear.
"We fought it the whole time," Sam Curran, public works director, said. "Luckily, we didn't have the wind. Temperatures are awful low, and we're not getting the melting we're used to, but I thought the crews did well."
The city had seven plows mounted on trucks, two graders, three loaders and a skid loader out Monday and Tuesday, as well as two salt and sand trucks without plows. The day started early for those crews at around 5 a.m. Monday to shortly past midnight, and then resumed snow clearing and removal downtown on Tuesday.
Curran said Monday's snow came down so steadily that snow plowing was kept on primary streets the majority of the day, and crews also dealt with a few equipment problems.
"A grader went down due to a heater, and we plowed so much we had to replace three blades on the plows in mid-stream," he said.
Every time it snows, the city usually gets a few complaints about snow removal, often about residential streets, and this storm was no exception. Curran said primary streets and roads are the priority for snow plowing, and residential streets are addressed if possible, mostly in an emergency situation if drifts have shut a street.
"If we do get done with primaries, and we feel we can do some good on residential streets, we will get back there. But our plan says we shouldn't pull off the primaries until they are in the condition we want them. That's for safety," he said.
City Manager Matt Allen said successful snow removal largely depends on how much snow falls, when it falls and the way it falls.
On Monday, the city got a lot of snow, but it came down in a prolonged and orderly fashion, instead of being driven by strong winds.
"It would be nice to get a day where it was significantly above freezing so we could get some real melt," Allen said.
With the low temperatures, ice bcomes a factor.
"When it stays in the teens, you get a little thaw on the very surface and it becomes like an ice skating rink. It's really managing ice at this point that's been key for our guys," Allen said.
City crews have been laying down salt and sand throughout the week and will continue doing so as long as temperatures stay below freezing, Curran said.
Curran said the city doesn't have the equipment right now to pre-treat its streets before a storm like some other communities do, but he said it is something the city has talked about.
"We think we need to improve the plow situation that we have, or the lack of a newer technology for plows. We'd like to look at that first, get those all caught up, and at the same time look at pre-treatment," he said.
Despite significant snow, the city did not declare a snow emergency, which would have required vehicles to be moved from emergency snow routes or face being towed by the city.
Allen said there is no magic number for a snow emergency declaration, but it most likely would involve a more intense storm, or maybe several storms with lots of ice and wind and potential for large drifts.
"A forecast of snow or winter weather isn't going to constitute an emergency. It's not my expectation that it would be something that would be done every year. It would have to be a matter of significant public safety," he said.
Curran said the city may issue warning tickets for cars left on emergency snow routes at some point this winter if another storm hits, just to make people more aware of the ordinance and its potential future enforcement.
"We're not there yet, but we're getting close. Hopefully we'll be able to do that before the season's up," he said. "I'm sure there will be some people who won't hear about it. That's why we want to run warnings for a little bit, to train people so when they see snow, they know they need to get their cars moved."