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Snows bring long hours for city crews, frustration for drivers
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With a foot of snow burying the city, to say the last two weeks have been a challenge for the motoring public and city employees may be the biggest understatement of this young year.
Great Bend Street Superintendent Mike Crawford said not only impacted his beleaguered Public Works Street Division, but all other departments as well. “Administration, Municipal Airport, Public Lands, Water, Water Pollution Control, Cemetery, Fire and Police departments, have all worked hard to meet the challenge of extreme cold and snow,” he said.
None of this, however, has stopped complaints from winter-weary residents from piling up like the drifting blizzard.
 “I understand the frustration of getting stuck at an intersection or in the middle of the block of a residential street, but please keep in mind we will only clear that street on an as needed basis,” he said. “I also understand the frustration of having your driveway plowed shut after you just spent the last two hours of cleaning it.”
“Keep in mind we have to try to maintain safe driving surfaces for the rest of the public,” he said, adding they do have a policy to follow.
But, he stressed, “if you need assistance with cleaning an area for your safety and convenience please call the Street Department and we will consider each call. If you are making a call to us it is important to you and it is also important to us.”
A long few days
Crawford offered an update on the department’s storm-related activities in hopes of quashing some of the complaints. Monday, Feb. 3, his crews prepared equipment for the snow storm which was approaching.
They also mixed 60 tons of salt and sand for the streets. When it starting snowing that Tuesday, two people were called in at 5 a.m. to start the salting and sanding operation. As the snow kept falling the salting and sanding was stopped and the plowing and grading started.
“We have 10 pieces of equipment to use and a person for each,” Crawford said. “As the streets were made passable the salting and sanding resumed.”
As the day progressed, some employees went home by 5 p.m., but most stayed until 7 p.m. Most had a 12-hour day.
“We were expecting six inches of snow but received a lot more,” Crawford said. “Wednesday we returned to work at 5 a.m. to start the process over with the temperature at 0 degrees and the wind chill -15.
This was another 12-hour day.
That Thursday and Friday, Crawford’s guys came in at 6 a.m. to start hauling the snow from the downtown area. Both days were 10 hours.
“With temperatures staying in the single digits and wind chills below zero last week, very little melting took place,” he said.
“With four inches of fresh snow this Monday on top of already snow and ice packed streets residential streets became nearly impassable,” Crawford said. With this snowfall the first call to work was made at 4:30 a.m. for the salt and sand trucks. Motor graders, loaders and plows were called at 5:40 a.m.
“Generally residential streets are 26 feet wide, so a car parked on each side of that street will leave only enough room for one car to pass safely between them,” he said. “We did have several complaints on these streets and we plowed those streets while trying to not cause another problem.
“Also if a snow storm comes at the time of day when people are going to work, going home from work or school is dismissing for the day, we will be out trying to clear streets so please be aware of us and be cautious,” he said. Do not try to pass on either side of a piece of equipment.
If the equipment is moving it’s best to follow it at a safe distance, he said. “You will get where you are going. It may take an extra few minutes but you will get there.”
When plows wind row snow to the center of the street, crews must come back and haul it away. Hauling the wind rows away starts after we have completed the plowing and grading operation.
If they are able to push the snow to the curb, they can leave it and let it melt.
“We do have two lists of streets to clean in our Snow and Ice Control Policy,” Crawford said. These include major arterial streets and collector streets.
They are divided into: Priority 1 Streets, such as 10th, Broadway, other major streets and those around the Police and Fire Departments; and Priority 2 Streets, such as Third, Patton, Cherry Lane and others.
“Our goal is to maintain safe and convenient driving surfaces for use by the motoring public,” Crawford said. “With safe driving habits motor vehicles can be operated in a relatively safe and convenient manner. This does not mean that bare, dry pavement should be expected after each snowfall nor does it mean the streets will be free of ice and snow.”
Each storm has unique characteristics, factors such as storm intensity, duration, wind, temperature and moisture content will influence the department combats the related road conditions.