Since the first snowstorm of the season on Nov. 6, winter has been relentless across North Dakota. That first storm dumped upwards of two feet of snow on the region, and snowfall since has broken local and state records.
Every week, there has been some type of snow, ranging from a couple inches to a couple feet. According to the National Weather Service, the local snow depth averages 40 inches, with more on the way. As this newspaper goes to press, another storm has moved in with an expected additional snowfall of two to four inches. The area is under a Winter Weather Advisory and a Wind Chill Advisory, with 20 m.p.h. winds dropping the perceived temperature to -25º F.
On top of the physical struggles of snow removal and commuting, there is the ultimate dollar cost of this winter’s weather. According to McHenry County Auditor Darlene Carpenter, keeping the roads clear has been a constant challenge, and there is little outside help available.
“We reached the point where we were going to rent or lease more equipment,” she said. “But when we tried, we were told there was none to be had. It’s all gone.”
According to Carpenter, the county spent $53,693.14 on snow removal in November and December of 2007. In comparison, the same months in 2008 saw expenditures of $84,688.81, an increase of more than $30,000. Those numbers cover only fuel and wages, and there’s no end in sight.
In Velva, snow removal efforts are also taxing the city budget. City Auditor Carol Bickler reports the city spent nothing on snow removal in November and December of 2007, and only $200 in January of 2008. Bickler said that was a little sanding, and the wages for the work were maybe $400 or $500. However, November and December 2008 snow removal costs were $11,518 for just rentals, repairs and fuel. Regular and overtime wages for snow removal crews added another $10,700 to that total.