The Jefferson County Public Works Department’s response to the area’s second major weather event of the season was a resounding success, said Public Works Director Jason Jonas.
At least, it was on the 667 miles of county-maintained roads, he said.
“I would say our county crews did a tremendous job getting the roads pretreated and then clearing them off once the storm hit,” Jonas said.
He said crews hit the roads at 10 a.m. on Dec. 15, ahead of the first wave of the storm that hit about noon, laying down salt, cinders and salt brine.
“The state (Department of Transportation) started on Friday (Dec. 13), but we held off because rain was forecast for Saturday (Dec. 14), and we didn’t want all of our material washing off before the snow,” Jonas said.
That call ended up being correct, he said. “We knew another wave was going to come on Monday morning (Dec. 16), and it ended up to be more intense than the first one, with more snow and ice,” Jonas said.
He said crews divided into two 12-hour shifts worked around the clock, from the morning of Dec. 15 through 3 a.m. on Dec. 18.
“We knew that we would have issues with melting and refreezing, so we wanted to stay on it,” Jonas said. “Once early Wednesday morning (Dec. 18) came around, we were confident that refreezing wouldn’t be an ongoing problem.”
County road crews put in 954 hours of overtime during the event.
Jonas said the mid-December storm used up about 14,300 gallons of salt brine and 535 truckloads of salt and cinders, or about 3,200 tons of cinders and 2,050 tons of salt.
“With the earlier event (a Nov. 11 snowfall), we’ve got about 85 percent to 90 percent of our material left for the rest of the season,” he said. “The salt is the big thing, because that is tough to restock during the winter. Cinders we can reorder at any time.”
While many might have wished for a white Christmas, Jonas said the unseasonably warm temperatures over Christmas week were a well-received gift for his crew.
“Our guys and gals got some good rest during the holidays, and it was well deserved,” he said. “They’ll be rested with the next time winter hits, and we all know that it will.”
The only fly in the street-clearing ointment came in subdivision streets that are maintained by the county, Jonas said.
“We had two trucks ordered that would be devoted exclusively to our subdivision streets, but they’re on backorder,” he said. “They were supposed to be delivered by Halloween, but they weren’t. I understand they’ll be here by the end of January.”
Without the new trucks, the county had to rely on contractors to clear the 38 miles of subdivision streets that the county has agreed to maintain, and Jonas said the contractors did a hit-or-miss job.
“I would say it was a little below par,” Jonas said. “But that’s understandable to some extent. They had other contracts to fulfill in addition to ours, and this was a major event.
“But hopefully, by the time the next big storm hits, we’ll be able to put our two trucks and four crew members on duty and work the subdivisions in 12-hour shifts with the same methods as we use for the roads.
“Our takeaway from this storm is that we need to get better in the subdivisions, and there’s no reason to believe that it’s not going to get a lot better once we take it over.”