Snow & Ice Removal
On the surface, snow plowing and salting seem like an easy operation, but like most operations, we have a very systematic approach. There are many variables that are looked at when we have snow and ice events and coordinating those activities in a city with over 21,000 people and almost 200 lane miles of roadway.
Some of these variables are: the timing of the event (time of day, day of week), air temperatures and ground temperatures (before, during, and after the event), type of precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, combinations), amount of precipitation in the forecast and the length of the event, staffing levels, material usage, supplies, time of season, budgets, etc.
All of these variables are looked at in determining the best course of action.
In 2015, we began using new technology installed on our trucks that are called pre-wetting systems. This system applies liquid brine to the salt as it drops on the spinner. This is beneficial in two ways: First, this reduces the amount of salt needed because it reduces the bouncing and blowing by 30%. Wet salt simply clings to the roadway better. Secondly, it also begins to activate the salt in order to melt snow and ice. Salt needs moisture to be an effective deicing agent. The moisture dissolves the salt, releasing heat, and melting the snow and ice. When temperatures drop below freezing, salt alone is ineffective. Pre-wetting ensures there is enough moisture to facilitate the melting process and therefore can be used at lower temperatures.
During the 2017/2018 winter season, we are going to emphasize our pre-treatment or anti-icing program. This is the application of salt brine directly to the roadway before an event. You may have noticed streaks of white residue on streets or bridges. This is effective to allow the melt of snow before crews are able to apply salt. This also prevents the bonding of ice to the road and makes it easier to remove off the roadway in large snow events.
We have different types of routes and priority levels for each street in our network of 200 lane miles.
The routes are set up considering a number of variables such as: the amount of traffic, the topography, types of facilities accessed, and the use of the land on the street.
The analysis tells us the priority level of that particular street. We have primaries, secondaries, busing routes, minor residential, and alleys.
A residential allotment for instance that has a low traffic count, the surface is relatively flat without any hills or dangerous curves and a lower speed limit has a lower priority than an arterial street such as SR 261 that has a high traffic count, higher speeds, shopping, businesses, and expressway access.
We also set up our routes so that every location can access a cleared roadway within approximately 1,000 feet.
Level of Service
Our level of service is typically to salt until snowfall accumulation necessitates plowing, typically between 1-2 inches. When we receive over 2-3” and other variables warrant, we will plow out all city streets. We are able to provide a high level of service, as many communities do not clear all streets until 5 or 6" of snow is received.
It's important to understand that our goal is not to have bare pavement all the time. Safety vehicles, school buses, and residents are able to navigate on flat, low speed, residential streets with a hard pack when temperatures are below freezing and repeated events occur.
We call a snow parking ban when we receive (or are anticipating to receive) large amounts (over 2 - 3”) of snow, and know we will be clearing all streets. This is to protect the citizen vehicles, our drivers, our trucks, and to make sure we can clear all sections.
We use between 3,000-4,000 tons of salt each winter season. We have storage capacity for about 3,000 tons at any given time.
Our equipment fleet contains:
- Ten 5-Ton Trucks
- Two 1-Ton Trucks
- 14 Operators
- 1 Pre-Treatment Truck