Snowplows work to keep up



You’ve probably heard them repeatedly, but when storms like Tuesday’s hit the Grand Valley and you see vehicles sliding off roads or stuck in a ditch, it’s good to be reminded of them. Here are a few from the Colorado Department of Transportation:

• Keep your gas tank full. The extra weight can provide better traction and give you a bigger margin of error if you become stuck and have to keep the engine running for warmth.

• Don’t leave your car if you become stuck in a serious storm. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.

• Carry jumper cables, an ice scraper, blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel and some food in your car.

• Remember that four-wheel-drive doesn’t mean four-wheel-stop. A four-wheel-drive vehicle won’t stop any better in icy conditions.

• Be sure of your route. Don’t explore the back country without some local knowledge.

•  Be sure to have good tires. The Colorado State Patrol recommends at least one-eighth of an inch tread depth.

• Don’t drive faster than you can see ahead in poor visibility. High speeds in such conditions can lead to large chain-reaction accidents.

Mesa County and Grand Junction road maintenance supervisors insisted they had all hands on deck to respond to the snow storm that pounded the Grand Valley on Tuesday.

But it was difficult to tell for most of the day, as many major roadways were snowed under and snow plows had trouble keeping them clear or were forced to steer away from them altogether.

Crews were expected to work through Tuesday night in an effort to ease what could be a troublesome commute this morning. Weather forecasters predicted temperatures would dip into the single digits overnight and top out only in the mid-20s today, creating plenty of ice and little or no melting.

“It’s an uphill battle,” Grand Junction Solid Waste and Streets Manager Darren Starr said.

The city and county began spraying magnesium chloride on roads Monday afternoon to try to keep snow from sticking to the roads. The city and county then put all 37 of their snow plows on the road. Crews concentrated on the largest thoroughfares and cleared areas around hospitals and schools but couldn’t get to side and residential streets.

“We don’t have the resources to be doing that,” Starr said.

Asked why the city plowed streets near schools when School District 51 classes were canceled Monday, he said, “We need to do it before tomorrow, anyway,” referring to the fact that classes were scheduled to resume today.

Despite the number of snow plows and drivers alternating 12-hour shifts, crews struggled to keep up. Several major roads in the city appeared as though they hadn’t been plowed in several hours or at all well into the afternoon. Many had so much snow and slush piled up on them that lines marking lanes and shoulders weren’t visible.

“We’ve got a snow plan that we follow, but eight snow plows with the size of the city we have is a challenge,” said Kristin Winn, spokeswoman for the city’s Pubic Works and Planning Department.

Starr acknowledged that city crews didn’t plow downtown streets because they don’t have anywhere to put the snow. He said it’s usually better to plow the downtown area at night when there is little or no traffic and crews can pile the snow in the middle of the street, then scoop it into dump trucks and haul it off.

City officials are asking commercial property owners to not plow snow from private property into city streets or public rights of way, emphasizing that doing so makes it harder to keep streets open for the public and emergency vehicles.


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