Archive for Thursday, December 18, 2003

Snow removal system flawed, city officials say

December 18, 2003


A week after the city's first winter storm, city officials conceded Tuesday that their snow and ice removal system was flawed. Mother Nature, they said, kept them from doing a better job.

"It rained heavily all day, and then it dropped six degrees in 20 minutes," said street division manager Tom Orzulak. "It sleeted for nearly two hours and then just got beaten into sheet ice."

All that rain made it impossible for street crews to salt and sand the roads in advance.

"It would have washed away," Orzulak said.

About 6:30 p.m. last Tuesday, crews hit the streets. But by the time they made their way to Sixth and Iowa streets at 7 p.m., it was too late. The streets were under almost an inch of solid ice.

"Because we couldn't pretreat the roads, the ice bonded to the street. It's impossible to get off at that point," Orzulak said.

Last week's storm was almost immediately followed by even more snow during the weekend, which means street crews haven't taken a day off in more than a week.

"Because they were back to back, we have racked up almost 1,200 hours in overtime," Orzulak said. "But we plan for that every year."

6News meteorologist Matt Sayers said Lawrence should have an average winter, and that is good news for the salt and sand supply.

"We have plenty stocked up. But if we get into the beginning of the year and we have six or seven storms, we may have a problem," Orzulak said.

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