The snow is not all that piled up.
City officials have their first glimpse at the costs associated with clearing the city of two late-February snow storms: $177,467 and still counting. And that's on top of a $140,000 snow-clearing tab run up this winter prior to the February double-whammy.
“It was a bad situation,” Mark Thiel, the city’s assistant director of public works, said of the two storms. “I went all the way back to 1900, and I couldn’t find where we had ever experienced two major storm events back-to-back like that. We’ve had bigger snow events, but not back to back.”
And here's a factoid: Someone with a City Hall calculator determined city crews pushed 77.6 million cubic feet of snow. Of that total, about 270,000 cubic feet actually had to be hauled away to the city’s storage lot at 11th and Haskell, with most of that snow coming from the downtown area and cul-de-sacs. The 270,000 cubic feet, according to the city, would fill the basketball court at Allen Fieldhouse to a depth of 57 feet.
All that snow removal comes at a cost. For the entire 2012-2013 winter season — remember, the season’s first snow was on Dec. 19 — the city has spent $317,512 clearing snow, which is more than triple the approximately $95,000 it spent last season.
But this year's spending is still well behind the most recent high-(frozen) water mark: 2009-2010, when the city spent $700,312 to remove 42.5 inches of snow.
This year’s totals are expected to grow because the city is still awaiting a bill from two private contractors — R.D. Johnson Excavating and King’s Construction — for work those companies did to assist city crews with snow removal. Those bills are expected to total about $70,000.
Thiel, however, said he’s pleased with how snow removal progressed in the city. He said city crews worked eight straight days of 12-hour shifts to tackle the snowfall. “The dedication of city employees has been tremendous,” Thiel said.
Private contractors were used to bring more equipment to the scene, particularly dump trucks used to haul snow piles off of downtown streets and cul-de-sacs.
Thiel estimated that after the snow stopped on Feb. 21, major arterial and collector streets were cleared within 24 hours. He estimates most of the entire city was cleared within 36 hours.
Thiel said the city’s stepped-up use of salt brine to pre-treat the streets helped speed up snow removal during the recent storms. The February storms marked the first time the city pre-treated all of the streets with the brine mixture.
Thiel said the brine helped prevent the snow — especially on residential streets — from becoming frozen to the pavement. That made the task of removing the snow easier and quicker.
“If we didn’t have the brine down, I don’t think we would have been able to have the residential streets cleared before the second storm arrived,” Thiel said.
The city used 34,000 gallons of brine to treat the 835 lane miles of streets in the city.
The new report from City Hall includes several facts and figures about the storms and the city’s snow removal operations. They include:
• By the city’s count, Lawrence received 17.6 inches of snowfall from Feb. 21 through Feb. 28 — 10.6 inches in the first storm and 7 inches in the second storm.
• For the entire season, the city has received 22.6 inches of snow. Lawrence’s historic average, according to the city, is about 21 inches for a season.
• The city has used 1,300 tons of sand and 2,258 tons of salt on the streets this winter season.