Post mortum on county snow removal

 

The in basket: I can count on a prolonged snow and freeze to generate questions and complaints about snow removal or the lack of it. 

Heidi Hottinger and Mike Dalgaard were two who wrote me the past week. Heidi lives on Duesenberg Court on the Silverdale Ridgetop and wondered why Ridgetop Boulevard was plowed several times by county equipment, which hadn’t come to their cul-de-sac and others in that area even once. Avante Drive, which feeds three of those cul-de-sacs, also went unplowed. 

“What about the considerable number of residential roads that feed to Ridgetop?,” she asked. “In previous snow-years (even the famous 1996 snow) we were plowed by the third day. What is the ‘grand plan’?”

Mike said Baby Doll Road in South Kitsap degenerated to two frozen ruts “so deep you went where the ruts sent you and had little or no control over the driving ‘line’ you wanted to take.” He had some harsh words for road crews who didn’t make it better.

The out basket: I agree with Merry Quy, whose letter to the editor in Tuesday’s paper suggested gratitude, not criticism, of road crews trying to make or keep the roads passable. You won’t find me having a hard word for people working 12-hour shifts in freezing, slippery conditions, even though you know some are more motivated than others, as in any group of people.

Heidi got a lot of her questions answered after I referred her to the county’s Snow Plan Web site (www.kitsapgov.com/pw/snowplow.htm), which shows Ridgetop to be a primary road, while Avante, its cul-de-sacs and (surprisingly) Baby Doll are not. Primary roads get cleaned before lesser ones. 

Comparison to the 1996 storm, which capsized much of the Port Orchard Marina, threatened the Warren Avenue Bridge and destroyed Albertsons at Clare’s Marsh is instructive. 

Heidi said she’d lived here for 14 years, so she doesn’t recall the prolonged sieges of December 1990, November 1985 and others that much more resembled what we just experienced. 

Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “The ‘96 storm dumped a large amount of snow at one time, followed by a rapid warming. The impact was significant, but the snow and ice portion of the event was much shorter lived than the recent storm.

“Up to six separate fronts moved through since December 13 (this time),” he said. “Each storm negated any progress we had made, and moved our crews back to square one. We did get a brief break the 22nd and 23rd, which allowed us to get to some secondary roads. But new snow the evening of the 23rd and during the day on the 24th wiped out that progress.” 

He estimates that the county’s 24 large plows and auxiliary equipment, like graders, moved 2.7 million cubic yards of snow from the roads that were plowed. 

“Plows run at 20-25 mph so you can see it takes some time get to it all,” he added. The 12-hour shifts, which earn the truck drivers overtime for anything over 40 hours in a week, are offset by breakdowns, shift changes and runs back to the sand supply to reload.  

“We (also) dealt with sub-freezing weather daily for almost two weeks,’ he said. “Most freezing weather doesn’t last here and we usually warm above freezing during the day. That makes it much easier to plow and requires less repeat sanding. During this current storm, the constant sub-freezing temps made plowing on primary roads more difficult, and delayed the move to (other) roads.”

As for Baby Doll Road, it was like many others, including the road he lives on in South Kitsap, Doug said. “Because these roads were not plowed, once temperatures warmed and traffic traveled them, they became rutted and in many places became essentially roads with just two tracks through them.”

I asked how much latitude the drivers have in deciding what to plow, and how the daily and minute-to minute decisions are made. That will be the subject of the next Road Warrior.

 

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