People think about “The Grinch” stealing Christmas, but Mother Nature was the culprit this year for the City of Columbus’ Streets Department.
The National Weather Service early on Christmas Eve began issuing severe weather alerts for the local area, indicating blizzard conditions were possible. Columbus residents woke up to a white Christmas with family and friends, but the streets team was hard at work cleaning up the roads as best they could.
City Streets Superintendent Clete Borchers said crews spent much of Christmas Eve hooking up plows and getting brine trucks ready to go. About 5 a.m. Christmas morning, they were out mixing brine on the road and clearing the snowy roads while it came down, including on the highway and streets near the hospital, among others. A new challenge this year was that recently reconstructed highway in town could not be salted, so residents have had to be even more mindful of icy conditions in those areas.
Workers managed to sneak away to spend a few hours with their loved ones on Christmas Day that afternoon before getting back at it about 6:30 p.m. and spending approximately five or six hours clearing downtown overnight. The focus shifted to residential roads the day after Christmas and has continued throughout the week with return visits.
When it comes to plowing, the street superintendent said major streets and avenues are handled first. Then, officials move into residential streets. The downtown business district is cleared of snow overnight while businesses are closed.
“We do try to clear what is possible downtown during the day but with all the parked vehicles on the streets, it works best overnight,” Borchers said, noting the road surrounding the hospital and schools usually get more attention than other areas.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
Q: What do crews do if there is not enough snow to plow, but the streets are icy?
A: Pre-treatment of roads begins when conditions warrant. During light snowfalls and/or when streets are icy, street crews will spread a brine mixture on major arterials, downtown and at intersections with traffic signals and stop signs. We also brine around churches and schools.
Q: Should we move our cars from the residential streets?
A: During residential plowing, it is very helpful if cars are moved into the driveway or a street that has been cleared. Upon the removal or moving of snow by the City of Columbus, from streets or avenues and the creation of any windrows, or piles of snow left around or upon a vehicle; said vehicle must be moved within 12 hours (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.) from the date of the creation of the windrow or pile of snow to a location at least 100 feet from the nearest windrow located upon the portion of public right-of-way used for vehicular traffic, or to be moved upon the privately owned property.
Q: What about driveways and sidewalks?
A: When plowing snow on your street, crews have no place to push the snow except to the curb. This creates the unavoidable problem of already cleared sidewalks and driveways becoming covered with snow. Unfortunately, the City does not have the funds or personnel to clean sidewalks and driveways. The City Street Division asks your cooperation in removing the snow again. We all need to work together to keep our city safe, including clearing sidewalks of snow.
The City Code further states that no person shall deposit, throw, blow, or otherwise dispose of any snow, ice, or hard-packed snow on any public property, street, alley, or another public way except for the sidewalks in the downtown area, as defined in the Snow and Ice Control Policy, which snow shall be returned to the curb-line dividing the streets and sidewalks in said designated area.
The street superintendent urged residents to use caution when on the roads and be mindful of the street crew.
“Residents are reminded to drive to the conditions, and when driving around snow equipment, give them plenty of room to do their job,” he said.
If you have questions, you can call the City Street Division at 402-562-4253.
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