Northwood and Oregon responded quickly to the demands caused by heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures and wind chills last week.
Northwood’s four snowplows had not stopped until the main roads and side streets had been cleared, said City Administrator Bob Anderson Wednesday evening.
“Everything was open pretty fast,” said Anderson, who is also the city’s safety director. “We concentrated on the primary roads first, and also kept our business roads cleared. As soon as we could, we headed for all the subdivisions. Our guys have done a really good job. They’ve been working since before the storm actually started. Tonight might be the first night we haven’t had anyone out plowing.”
The city has four large snow plows as well as smaller trucks and heavy duty pickups with blades attached.
“We had four street employees and the building and maintenance supervisor out plowing. They don’t work any more than 12 hours. We keep track of how many hours and days in a row they work. We do what we have to do. But we also make sure our people don’t get fatigued so they’re safe,” said Anderson.
“The only problem we had, just like everyone else, is the snow getting blown over some of our roads,” he added. “You can plow them a million times, but if it’s still blowing, the roads are still going to be covered with snow an hour later.”
The majority of residents, he said, got their vehicles off the streets so that plows could remove the snow. Some of the roads are very narrow, making it difficult for plows as well as emergency vehicles to navigate. “Emergency vehicles can’t get through some of those roads if there is a car on each side of the road,” he said. “Emergency access is vital.”
Oregon’s roads were also cleared as of Wednesday evening, according to Mayor Mike Seferian.
“Everything is plowed,” he said. “We just have two crews out this evening covering the city for possible snow drifts.”
The city has 13 plows consisting of big and small end loaders and trucks with plows, said Seferian.
“At any given time, some of them are being serviced or repaired. One of the snow plows hit a little shift in the road on Navarre Avenue and the blade was bent. It’s not anything tragic. But rather than keep that one out on the road, it was pulled for repairs so it didn’t get damaged any worse. And one of the big end loaders had a hydraulic issue, so part of the time, it was down. When you’re pushing that level of snow, breakdowns happen and it’s not uncommon at all,” he said.
Some need just minor adjustments, he added. One plow’s defroster broke down, causing the windows to fog up. “The truck was running great, but with the defroster broken, the driver couldn’t see and needed another vehicle. It was just a matter of icing on the intake, not allowing the truck to draw in any air to blow onto the windshield.”
Street crews work 12 hour shifts, and are compensated with overtime, time and a half and double time pay after 40 hours, he said.
There were no waterline breaks reported, though they can occur when the temperatures start to rise.
“Sometimes after a cold spell, when it starts to get warm a little bit, is when waterline breaks can show up, so we’re not out of that yet,” said Seferian. “We can be more susceptible later because the ground starts to move when it gets warmer. We’re fortunate so far, but we could still have them.”
Both cities were expected by last Thursday to start covering the streets with road salt, which is ineffective in temperatures below 20 degrees. The temperature on Thursday was expected to climb to 24 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
“We’re going to start using a lot of salt pretty soon to break down the remaining ice on the roads. We used a little so there’s some traction for motorists,” said Anderson.
Seferian said the city also used road salt during the day on Wednesday as temperatures hovered near 20 degrees.
“We were on the edge today,” he said. “We used salt during the daylight hours. The sunlight makes it start working.”
The city decided not to salt the roads in the evening due to falling temperatures.
“If you get some melting, and it drops down cold enough, it will re-freeze when nightfall comes and it will be more slippery than if you didn’t salt,” said Seferian.
Seferian, who owns an auto repair shop, said most disabled vehicles in this weather are due to dead batteries.
“We see a lot of car batteries we have to change. A little place like ours, we changed five today,” he said.
“What most people don’t realize,” he added, “is that the cold isn’t as hard on batteries as hot weather is. More batteries are damaged in the hot part of the summer as in the winter. It’s 10 to one. Heat is more damaging than cold all the time. However, it takes one-third of the power to start a car in the summer than it does in the winter. Batteries are damaged a lot of times in the summer, but they are just getting by. When it gets to subzero temperatures, it’s three times more difficult to turn over the car because it demands more power, and that’s when the problem shows up.”
Thirty-five years ago, auto repair shops might replace 20 batteries in a day in such weather.
“Today, batteries are a lot better than they were before,” he said.