Snowplow drivers try to keep up

Storm catches crews off-guard on Tuesday

Blaine Loustaunau of Grand Junction plows the sidewalk on an ATV equipped with a blade outside the US Bank building, 422 White Ave., on Tuesday. Loustaunau is an employee of The Landscape Center, and was one of several employees of the company working to clear the sidewalks around the bank.

Surrounded by a wintry wonderland, a man shovels the sidewalk in the 1100 bock of Rood Avenue on Tuesday.

Oh, the thankless job of a snowplow driver.

As a snowstorm with perhaps unexpected strength socked the Grand Valley on Tuesday morning, snowplow drivers from several agencies lamented they couldn’t be everywhere at once.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 2.1 inches of snow fell at the National Weather Service station, near Grand Junction Regional Airport. That was the low end for snowfall in the Grand Valley, said meteorologist Dennis Phillips, who also took reports of up to 6 inches of snow falling in areas of Palisade.

“It seemed like it was really convective,” he said. “Conditions were ripe for heavy snowfall in some areas but not in others.”

For example, a reported 3 inches of snow fell in Mack, but downtown Grand Junction saw more like 5 inches.

While a combination of plowed roads and heavy traffic cleared snow off high-traffic roads, more snow is on the way. A forecast for Grand Junction by the National Weather Service shows a chance of snow every day until Saturday.

“It looks like a wet week,” Phillips said. “There’s good Pacific moisture. For sure the mountains will continue to stay active. At lower elevations, there’ll be a few inches here and there.”

Crews clearing Grand Junction’s roads pre-soaked roadways with magnesium chloride on Monday night but admittedly were a little behind on plowing once whiteout conditions took over.

“It didn’t start snowing until about 4 a.m. — then at about 4:45 a.m. it was flat coming down,” said Darren Starr, Grand Junction’s street systems manager. “Honestly we were a little bit behind. Mother Nature threw us a curve ball. If you get behind, even if it’s an hour, you can’t get caught up.”

Indeed, motorists most likely attempting to get to work during the bulk of the snowstorm, between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., were irked as it appeared some roads had not been plowed.

Also, motorists probably were shocked at road conditions after several inches fell in mid-January and crews seemed to whip away the snowfall just as soon as it touched down.

Mesa County Road and Bridge supervisor Rudy Bevan said his crews had been working since the early morning hours Tuesday, but snowfall was varied across the county. For example, crews have been working nonstop for days to clear areas around De Beque and Collbran. Snowfall didn’t really start accumulating in the Clifton area until about 8 a.m. Tuesday, but at that time plow drivers were working elsewhere.

“This happens all the time,” Bevan said. “People expect the roads to be plowed for them when they go to work.”

Bevan was miffed when one resident posted a nasty comment on the county’s Facebook page about a plow with its blade up in the Clifton area. The pictured truck, however, was one owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation and was likely only plowing state roads, like U.S. Highway 6&50.

Bevan encouraged anyone who is unhappy with the county’s road conditions to contact him directly, at 250-5311 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

“I can’t fix nothing if I don’t know about it,” he said.


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