December 25, 2008

After the storm

After the storm


County snow removal crews

focus on safety and service


BHG News Service

It is 6 a.m. the morning after a weekend blizzard that has blown through McLean County for two days. Most people are curled up in a warm bed enjoying an extra hour of sleep.

Not so for the McLean County snow removal crew. They are dressed warmly in insulated coveralls, and they are at the county shop, warming up the heavy equipment needed to clear the 1,400 miles of county roads after the area was inundated with six to 12 inches of snow over two weekends of wintery weather.

It takes a dedicated crew of 14 men, driving nine motor graders, four snowplow trucks and a large snowblower 10 to 12 hours a day anywhere from two to four days to open all of the gravel roads. After the last two weekend storms, even the spare blade was out on the road.

County Highway Department Superintendent Ron Wagner has a good crew and a well-thought out system to remove snow after a storm. He knows the type of person it takes to do this job. He has been doing it for the county for 35 years, beginning as a maintenance operator himself.

The majority of his road maintenance crew members have been part of the county system for a number of years, ranging in experience from 10 to 25 years, although one has been added within the last year.

"They all take the job very seriously," said Wagner. "They work to get the roads cleared as fast and as safely as possible."

Wagner and Road Foreman Doug Krebsbach are the first line of defense in determining which roads need snow removal after a blizzard or snowstorm. The two men are the ones to venture out when the wind is still blowing.

The challenge for Wagner and Krebsbach is considering all of the factors, the safety of the crew, the visibility and wind chill, the possible use of a road in emergency situations, the conditions the storm is creating: ice, pillow drifts, blowing snow, blocked areas.

Wagner watches, waiting for the snowfall and wind to go down before sending out snow removal. He said, "You don’t want to jeopardize your people."

But he knows that emergency situations arise and snowplows have been sent out to clear the way for an ambulance or fire department on more than one occasion over the years.

The first maintenance crews that are sent out concentrate on the county asphalt system with two of the snowplows and sanding trucks working out of Garrison and two out of Washburn.

Wagner explained, "Take County 22, for example. We try to clear that paved road as soon as possible because it connects Highway 41 and Highway 83 which are two main roads."

The paved roads are the ones most likely to be used and have first priority. Those crews report back to Wagner and the operators who will be clearing the gravel roads that branch off the paved roads being cleared.

The Weather Network