I don’t know if it’s El Nino or Global Warming, but either way this has been a particularly mild winter for Kent — and I for one have enjoyed every minute of it. Not just because I could do without the cold temperatures, but also because snow costs the City money in salt, chemicals, overtime and fuel. Clearing City streets saves lives, so I’m proud our employees offer such a critical service, but I also don’t mind when Mother Nature allows our employees to stay home on winter’s nights. In my last City winter storms (4 inches or more) generally cost us about $10,000 an inch. Here’s a look at what snow operations cost us in Kent in the small storm we had on January 9th and 10th.
Kent Snow Operations — here’s an email from the City’s Public Service Director, Gene Roberts, that explains how the snow operations are engaged.
“The City’s Central Maintenance Division assigns a higher priority to primary streets over secondary and tertiary. Additionally an even higher priority is assigned to bridges, hills and schools zones (depending on school operational times). We make every effort during a storm event to maintain all primary routes in the City clear for the City’s emergency responders to gain access to neighborhoods and assign the City’s resources based on our best judgment always attempting to apply the correct balance of resources to snow event.
From our records, the snow event started on the evening of Tuesday January 9, 2007 and for us ended at 4:00 pm on Wednesday January 10, 2007. The storm event presented as bands of snow, starting and then stopping with drifting occurring most of the night and ending mid-morning of the 10th. I have reviewed the Central Maintenance Division’s reports for snow and ice control for this period and can offer the following details:
The Central Maintenance staff was called by the Kent Police Department at 9:15 PM on the 9th requesting two salt trucks. When the first Central Maintenance plow truck operators arrived, their drive from home suggested that two trucks were insufficient given the snow event that they had just driven through and two additional snowplow operators were called in.
The initial response of four operators used a total of 105-tons of salt from 10:00 pm of Tuesday until 7:00 am on Wednesday equating to an application rate of 2.9 tons per hour per operator. At 7:00 am two additional operators were assigned to clearing non-primary City streets bring the total to six operators cleaning City streets. The snow and ice control effort was suspended at 4:00 pm on Wednesday after both the primary and secondary streets were cleared. The day shift force used a total of 65 tons of salt or an application rate of 1.3 tons per hour per operator.
The reason I provide you with the salt usage rate in tons per hour per operator is it provides insight as to how the snow storm event occurred and it is one of the relationships that we monitor relative to snow storm events. When the tons per hour per operator is higher, the event was a storm that was continuous and strong. When the tons per hour per operator is low the event was weak and short in duration.
I believe that you can see that during this storm event our rate of salt application was 2-1/4 times the rate that was required to complete clearing all City streets at the end of an event. There are 115 miles of roadway in the City of which 17 miles are identified as primary routes. With a average application rate of 1-ton per mile of on our main line routes they were salted during the night approximately six times each. This equates to a pavement re-salt rate of every 1-1/2 hours including reloading salt on the plow trucks.
The purpose of providing you some of our post snowstorm analysis data is to demonstrate how seriously we take our responsibility to maintain safe roads for the motoring public. The problem we face is the assignment of resources to accomplish snow and ice control in an environment that changes from minute to minute. Our target is always to have clean streets while at the same time not being wasteful with taxpayer’s dollars.
Hopefully you can see how much effort that our plow operators exert to clear the roads, as much data as we collect and analyze, as much science as we try to make of snow and ice control, we are still at the mercy of nature.”
Here’s the actual snow cost data: