Crews battle Mother Nature for the driver's seat
Thursday, February 06, 2014 10:00 AM
Just as one round of snow and ice melts and fades from recent memory, another winter wallop slides into the Courierarea.
Madison Streets Department Supervisor Ken Washer radios in to tell other drivers what streets need attention as city crews worked around the clock to clear the ice and snow that fell in Madison on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
This winter storyline has meant hundreds of hours of overtime for city and county crews and extensive use of stockpiled materials, as snow plow drivers have spent several sleepless nights clearing and reclearing covered roadways.
The city and county crews have tackled the season's onslaught of snow and ice in shifts - often more than 12 hours at a time. Drivers hit the roads late afternoon Tuesday when the front first moved into Jefferson County and continued scrapping snow and laying cinders, salt and sand all day Wednesday.
Madison Streets Department Supervisor Ken Washer was out clearing areas on the hilltop midday Wednesday. Washer said the city crews were out all night with the first shift working from 3 p.m. to midnight.
"Nighttime is a little bit better, just because you don't have all the traffic to contend with. You get a little more done. But, you get tired by the end of the shift. You have to stay so focused that it is physically and mentally pretty demanding," he said.
Washer said it's not that the motorists shouldn't be out on the roads, "but a lot of people are super cautious and we can't plow snow at five miles-an-hour. We have to get a little bit of speed to roll it off our blades."
"So, it slows us down a little bit," Washer said.
Depending on road conditions, drivers can be in the seat for up to 16 hours. Luckily, Washer said the city has several experienced drivers to carry the load.
"We've got a couple of newer guys, but they're catching on real quick and they're doing a great job. The other guys are all veterans, this is just old hat to them; just get in and go. They know what to do and how to do it," he said.
Washer said the frequent snow events this year have cut into the city's salt supply, adding that crews are resorting to mixing the salt with sand to make it last.
"We're a little bit low," he said. "We're doing the same thing the state and pretty much everybody in this region's doing, that's mixing salt and sand together. We've got enough to get the job done right now, but we're not wasting any either."
Darrell Gayle, Jefferson County highway garage superintendent, said the county typically runs each of its 10 snow plows during significant snow events.
"We'll be working probably late tonight to get all this pushed off," he said Wednesday.
Like the city, the county's salt supply is dwindling, and it's unlikely new loads will come in anytime soon.
"And if we did (get them), they're talking late February or early March. Hopefully we won't need it by then," he said.
Gayle said the county works with three suppliers for salt and keeps a stockpile of about 180 tons each year.
Currently, the garage is down to about 50 tons - but that number is not as dire as it seems, considering the county mostly combats snow and ice with heavy plowing and cinders.
If needed, Gayle said the crews will mix the salt and cinders together.
Unfortunately for both garage crews looking for relief from Mother Nature's frosty behavior, the National Weather Service of Louisville is calling for chances of additional snowfall this weekend.