Winter roared into Utah this year with new storms seeming to batter the Wasatch Front every few days. The state had its snowiest Christmas in 100 years and the snow has continued to pile up. Northern Utah mountains have accumulated more than 150 percent of average snowfall. And while this is great news for the ski resorts, it can wreak havoc on the roads.
When a big storm hits, it takes a coordinated effort with all hands on deck to clear the roads. That's why, during this snowy winter, it was all the more devastating when in late January, a massive fire at Sandy's public works building destroyed half the city's snowplow fleet.
Nathan Wood, a snowplow driver for Sandy, explains the emotions of that day, "We were just coming off a crazy long plow session and then the fire hit. Everyone was beside themselves because we didn't understand how we were going to get the job done. Sandy has 18 trucks used for plowing and we lost 11 of the 18."
Sandy mayor Tom Dolan held an emergency meeting with the Public Works department to address how to manage the rest of winter. To make up for the loss of snowplows, the city retrofitted a few 10-wheel vehicles in its fleet with snowplow equipment. Sandy also received numerous offers from just about every other city along the Wasatch Front to help out with plows or to assist in taking over some of the routes.
To Wood and his fellow snowplow drivers, the help from the other cities really hit home. "It was a relief to me and the guys I work with, and to our management when these other cities came to our aid and helped us out. Without them, I don't know what we would have done. We definitely couldn't have provided the level of service our residents are used to."
After a snowstorm, it seems everyone wants his or her own street plowed first. And while snowplow drivers work as fast as they can to clear all the roads, Wood discusses how the roads are prioritized: "The main roads get plowed first, followed by school zones, followed by hills and then everything else. Please know that we do get to all the roads as fast as we can. Be patient. We can't be everywhere at the same time."
Wood continues with some tips for residents to help plow drivers do their jobs more efficiently.
1. Garbage Cans
"The best things residents can do is not put their garbage cans all the way to the middle of the street. Keeping the cans as close to the gutter as possible gives snowplow drivers the room we need to clean your street."
Photo: Snowplow driving by garbage cans that are against the curb.
2. Snow Blowers
"A lot of people blow their snow out on the road after it has been plowedeven if they live on a hill. This creates a hazard, not just for snowplow drivers, but also for everyone who drives on the road. Many times I'll get done plowing a road and come back five minutes later to plow the circles on that road and you can hardly tell I've already plowed it because there's so much snow blown out in the street."
"Please give plow drivers ample room. Don't get right on our tails. I have a backup camera in my truck and I can't tell you how many times I look in it and all I can see is the headlights of the car behind me. I can't even see what kind of car it is, it's so close."
"You always get some people who think they can drive faster than a plow truck. Cars will often fly past me on the straightaway and then when I get down to the next corner, I will see them slid off the road. I usually just give them a honk and a wave."
5. Parking on the Street
"After a snowstorm, cars parked on the street often make it hard for snowplows to do their job. Trying to fit a plow between two cars parked side-by-side on a narrow road presents a quite a challenge, particularly if the road is icy and slick."
6. Tree Branches
"Another major concern that all plow drivers deal with across Sandy and everywhere are tree branches that hang into the road. There are some roads where I can't even come close to the curb without damaging my truck because of the low-hanging tree branches."
Read more from the Utah League of Cities and Towns on DeseretNews.com or visit their website at ulct.org.