Plowing efforts complicated by several factorsWORTHINGTON — Worthington’s first major snowfall of the season on Friday was “non-typical” primarily because of the timing, the city’s director of public works said Tuesday, complicating some snow removal efforts.
WORTHINGTON — Worthington’s first major snowfall of the season on Friday was “non-typical” primarily because of the timing, the city’s director of public works said Tuesday, complicating some snow removal efforts.
There are several factors — ranging from snow accumulation and the direction of the wind to the timing of the snowfall — that affect the process of snow removal in the city, Jim Laffrenzen explained.
“It really started to snow heavy at 6 (a.m.),” Laffrenzen said, adding that plows are usually on the streets by 4 a.m. “Two hours after we had plowed, it looked like we had never plowed. Normally, we would have seen a good accumulation prior to 4 or 5 in the morning.”
Laffrenzen noted that all of the priority routes — which are streets in the city center and collector streets — would have been plowed between the 4 to 6 a.m. window if the snowfall had decreased by 6 a.m.
“The snow didn’t quit until noon,” he added. “We would have cleared the residential streets by noon, but we were still trying to keep the main streets open.”
Residential roads deliver traffic into collector streets. Some of the collector streets in the city include Clary Street, Diagonal Road, Oxford Street and South Shore Drive.
An unexpected flight into Worthington Municipal Airport, which was closed Friday morning, further delayed the plowing process.
“Although I had checked that there were no arrivals and departures, at approximately 9:30 a.m., I got a call from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) in Minneapolis that a business jet was ready to land in Worthington,” Laffrenzen said. “What I had to do was to pull a majority of my units of the street to quickly open the airport. I probably lost an hour and a half of snow removal time in town.”
Laffrenzen explained that most residents do not realize that airports, like streets, have to be plowed well because of the annual airport maintenance assistance grant received from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
“If we’re going to receive that grant, we need to maintain the airport at a certain level,” he said about the $75,000 grant.
In addition to the priority routes, roads in the vicinity of schools are also given plowing precedence.
“If I know schools are running two hours late, I’ll clear those streets probably an hour before school starts,” he said. “When buses and the kids start (arriving) at school, I want them to have a clean street.”
Once the main routes are plowed, the direction of the wind determines which residential areas are plowed first. Laffrenzen explained that with a usual north wind during a snow day, plow operators who move out of the city center will begin plowing residential streets on the south.
“The big complaint we got on Friday was ‘Why wasn’t the south side of town plowed first?”’ Laffrenzen said. “With no wind, I had the trucks mostly on the north side of the community. I wasn’t going to pull them from the center-north to the south because that’s what we normally do. The last were first and the first were last.”
Alleys are usually plowed on the second day after a snowfall.
Deciding on the best route to navigate snowplows and the frequency of operating the plows often comes with being mindful of taxpayers’ dollars, Laffrenzen said.
After the strong gusts of wind Saturday that caused snow to once more scatter on the road, he explained that it would not have been a cost saving strategy to plow on Saturday because of the forecast for the following day. The forecast indicated an additional one to two inches of snow from Sunday to Monday.
The approximate cost to remove an inch of snow and ice from October 2010 until April 2011 was $2,881 — an amount that included labor, equipment and material.
Daily Globe reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321