Columbus and Bartholomew County snow crews are plowing ahead in efforts to keep roads clear and residents happy as another snowfall was expected overnight.
But patience sometimes runs short when snow piles up.
After every snowfall, as workers are still clearing the main roads, there are a host of angry phone calls from residents wanting to know why their particular street has yet to be cleared, city and county officials said.
“We hit the main roads first, then the secondary roads and then do the subdivisions last,” county Engineer Danny Hollander said.
By the numbers
City snowplows used during
City drivers, mechanics
Number of county drivers, mechanics, supervisors
City overtime last week
13 to 18
Hours city and county drivers worked daily last week
“It doesn’t do any good to do the subdivisions first and they can’t go anywhere on the main roads.”
Mayor Kristen Brown said the city uses the same priorities. While Brown said most comments from city residents this past week have been positive, there have been phone calls from residents whose streets have not been cleared quickly enough.
“I really want to commend the job the employees with the city garage do, and we appreciate the patience on the part of residents and businesses,” Brown said.
“We have been deploying every piece of equipment we have, working full crews long, long hours and now back-to-back for several days. I think they have done an excellent job through these past couple of snowstorms.”
The winter blast began Wednesday, with 6.5 inches of snow in Columbus and 8 inches in Hope.
Residents awoke Saturday to an inch or two of additional snow.
And the National Weather Service forecast called for central Indiana to receive 2 to 4 inches by this morning. The snow was expected to subside about 7 a.m. today, according to a Winter Weather Advisory for Bartholomew and other central Indiana counties.
Brown said city workers began clearing streets at 1 a.m. Wednesday, and drivers worked up to 18-hour shifts trying to keep the main streets cleared.
“We were getting so much snow, so fast on Wednesday that they were delayed getting out into the secondary streets because they were continually having to plow the mains,” she said.
Bryan Burton, city garage superintendent, said crews were going to pre-treat city streets for the latest snowfall Monday night.
“Luckily with the snows back-to-back like this, we still have material on the roads,” Burton said.
“It is almost like they are pretreated right now. Material we had down from the previous storms helped us out.”
Hollander said the county has 18 snowplow drivers on duty during snowy weather, including 12 drivers with big trucks, and three mechanics, the highway superintendent, assistant superintendent and one other driver in pickup trucks.
The mechanics will plow roads until equipment begins breaking down, he said.
During last week’s snows, county drivers worked from 3 a.m. until 10 p.m. then started up again at 3 a.m. the next day, Hollander said.
Drivers are expected to monitor their own fatigue levels and recognize when they are getting too tired to drive, he said.
“We don’t want anybody out there (plowing) that is endangering anybody,” Hollander said.
Burton said the city uses a similar system to prevent driver fatigue, replacing drivers when they say they are tired.
Although the city has 18 snowplows, there are only 16 street department workers, he said.
The city also uses its mechanics and sanitation workers, once they have finished their garbage routes.
The county has plenty of salt, in part because of last year’s light winter and a contract requirement, Hollander said.
The county contracted to buy 1,000 tons of salt last year and most of it was unneeded. But the county still had to take 80 percent of its contract, or 800 tons.
For this winter, the county reduced the contract to 700 tons but still ended up with more salt than there was room to store it.
“We did have it stored (outside) with a tarp over it, but we have used all of that,” Hollander said.