The snowstorm forecast for this week was a waiting game for city and county road crews trying to keep streets cleared and, while the additional moisture was needed and a welcome sight.
It was also a mixed blessing.
Marty Fredrickson, streets director for the city of Marion, said the town has been fortunate the last few years in dodging some major storms, but this one ranks with one a few years ago.
“I know we have all been praying for moisture and now we are getting it, just not in the form I wanted it,” Fredrickson said.
The “waiting game” plan, he said, started Sunday with a few city employees preparing the equipment for the next round of snow, which was less than a week after the first snowstorm dumped 12 inches in the county.
Randy Crawford, Marion County Road and Bridge Department superintendent, said Monday that county crews were also at a standstill until the snow and wind dies down.
“Even if we only get 3 inches, as soon as crews go through with a plow, it would close right behind them with the 30 mph winds predicted,” he said Monday.
The winds were gusting up to 30 mph by 5 p.m. Monday, he said, causing problems with snowdrifts on 190th Road.
Crawford said he is asking the public to “basically be patient” regarding the road situation in the county.
The county prioritizes snow removal on asphalt roads first, rock, second and then dirt.
“There is a higher volume of traffic on asphalt,” he said, which is the department’s primary concern.
Fredrickson echoed Crawford’s words about patience and also made a request.
“Please try to get vehicles off the street,” he said, “that way we are a little more efficient and we can do a better job if we don’t have to go around things like that.”
Another concern, he said, is that sometimes when the snowplows are trying to work on Main Street, motorists are wanting to come out and see what is going on.
“When this happens, our crews have to sit and wait for traffic (to continue moving the snow),” he said.
“If people don’t have to go out, please stay at home.”
Another issue Crawford said was important to talk about is that the county only plows snow.
“We don’t have salt spreaders,” he said. “We cannot chemically treat any roads.”
In order to make that happen, Crawford explained, it would require the county to build a facility to store the salt and then the cost to buy salt spreaders, which he said are very expensive.
“The only thing we have is a small truck with a little bit of sand to put down near signs or on curves or bridges,” he said.
Changes in forecast
Dan D’Albini, director of Marion County Emergency Preparedness, said the weather forecasts fluctuated up and down on the amount of snow Marion County could expect from the storm.
“It’s moving slower than expected,” D’Albini said on Monday, “but the wind is already here.”
By midday, though, D’Albini said the forecast called for 7 to 11 inches of snowfall with sustained winds at 15 to 30 mph with gusts to 35 mph.
“The heaviest snowfall amounts were expected after 3 p.m. Monday and going through until Tuesday around noon,” he said.
Even with the changes in accumulation rates, Fredrickson said, the Marion city crews will go out with 4 inches of snow.
D’Albini, like Fredrickson, also agreed the county is fortunate to be getting the needed moisture.
“The snow melting is slow,” he said, “which is aiding the ground by letting it get soaked in.”
The longer it stays on the ground, he said, the better it is for crops and the general soil.
“Getting saturated with the moisture again,” D’Albini said, “is something we are in desperate need of.”
How does it work?
The county prioritizes asphalt roads first using 12 to 14 motor graders and 30 employees to cover 1,600 miles of road.
“Each motor grader plows about 130 miles of road,” he said
To put the amount of county miles in perspective, Crawford said, it would be like driving one way to San Diego, Calif.
Fredrickson said the city starts opening up Fifth Street to the Marion Fire Station, then the Marion County Emergency Medical Service route to the hospital and then Main Street.
“It doesn’t make sense to have routes open if we can’t get (emergency personnel) there,” Fredrickson said why Main Street is a high priority, too.
For Fredrickson, when the snow hits, it’s a learning experience.
“We try to learn a little bit every year,” he said.
“We always have concerns like why didn’t the city do this or that so we try to taking the information and turn it into a learning-type experience to do better next time.”
One of the biggest concerns Fredrickson hears is regarding the side streets.
“People want to get out and shove their drive right after the snow quits,” he said. “Then six or eight hours later the city plows the drive shut.”
Hopefully, with each new snowstorm, Fredrickson said there is learning on not only the city’s part, but the resident’s part as well.
D’Albini reminded everyone that whenever snowstorms are predicted, people should have plenty of food and water.
“If you are traveling, put blankets in the car and if you have a cell phone, have it fully charged,” he said.
In addition, people are also asked to allow extra time when traveling.
“Even if the weather is not bad where you are, the place you are traveling to could be experiencing severe weather,” he said.
People can also make waiting out a storm easier by assembling a storm kit and deciding if shelter should be sought should seek shelter elsewhere in the event of a power outage.
In Marion, Fredrickson said people can go to the Marion Community Center or the basement area in city hall.
City hall, he said, is equipped with a generator and a designated shelter location. The Marion Police Station is also available.
Other items D’Albini suggests people have available during storms include emergency phone numbers, flashlights and batteries, nonperishable foods that don’t require heating, blankets, bedding and sleeping bags and a first-aid kid with medications.