Iola will depend on Mother Nature, and local traffic, to clear residential streets of snow that came to the area early today.
“We have limited equipment and priorities to deal with,” said Cory Schinstock, assistant city administrator. Also, “if we did try to clear neighborhood streets, we’d have a lot of upset people after their cars and driveways got buried,” by snow thrown aside by plows.
Iola has a snow and ice priority list that gives first attention to U.S. 54, State Street and the square. Next up are better than a dozen well-traveled streets, such as Kentucky and Cottonwood north-south and Lincoln and Miller Road east-west.
“We have third and fourth priorities,” Schinstock continued, “but by the time we deal with the first and second, the weather usually has warmed enough that the others have taken care of themselves.”
When snow blankets the city, Street and Alley Department workers are deployed in two dump trucks with blades attached to the fronts and a motor grader. Coming on their heels is a spreader truck that dishes out traction-promoting salt and chat.
“We also have a front-end loader to clear intersections,” Schinstock added.
Along part of U.S. 43 (Madison Avenue through downtown), around the courthouse square and on several streets radiating from the square, snow is piled in windrows, then removed, often while plowing continues.
“Snow removal is done by employees from the Electric and Gas and Water departments, to free Street and Alley to continue clearing streets,” Schinstock noted.
Snow is removed so that when it melts during the day water isn’t left to freeze overnight and create sheets of ice on streets.
“That would only compound driving problems,” Schinstock said.
Iola has 55 miles of streets, with about a third falling into first- and second-priority snow removal.
Schinstock said he doubted manpower would be a problem if snow removal were expanded, but equipment would.
“You can afford to have only so much snow removal equipment, because there are winters it isn’t used at all,” he said. “Two years ago (February 2011) we had to deal with snow, but didn’t have any last winter.”
In 2011, a foot of snow fell on Feb. 2 and 11 inches on Feb. 9, with temperatures cold enough — minus 12 on Feb. 3 and -8 the next night — that little melted between the two snows.
BILL KING, director of Public Works for Allen County, has a different philosophy.
Whenever snow of consequence falls, his intention is to have all of the county’s 1,000 miles of roads — 180 hard-surfaced and 820 rock — open to traffic as quickly as possible.
King has five motor graders and four plow/spreader trucks at his disposal.
“We concentrate on the hard-surfaced roads and move as quickly as we can to the rock roads,” he said, with the expectation of having all roads open to traffic within a couple of days.
“But, you have to remember that while a grader operator’s district contains 150 miles of (rock) roads, that means to clear both lanes is 300 miles,” King observed.
The spreaders don’t apply salt and chat on all 180 miles of hard-surfaced roads, he added, rather in most cases treat hills, intersections, bridges and viaducts.
King met with operators Monday to plan how the county would approach snow left by this storm, although he allowed they “have to be given some leeway. They know their districts and they know how best to deal with whatever we get.”
“It’s a lot of hard work for them and there are some tough and tense times before we get all the roads in passable condition,” he said.