As much as I prefer grass to snow, I recognize that we live in one of the nation’s more productive snow belts so we better be prepared to handle it.
The news agencies are saying that we are on a record setting pace for snowfall in December, and I’m guessing that the chiropractic business is booming from all the back bending shoveling that’s been going on. What’s true for resident’s and their driveways is equally true for City crews and City streets.
The City’s snow operations have had to put the pedal to the metal to keep up with everything that mom nature threw at us over the last couple of weeks. The good news is we have a snow operations plan, we worked the plan, and the plan worked. That’s not to say everything we did was perfect — we can always do better — but at the end of the day I look back on what we accomplished and I’m proud of how we managed the operations given all the snow we got.
Snow removal doesn’t just happen, it actually takes a lot of careful planning, preparation and performance to pull it off. We have experienced supervisors and operators who know the drill and that has really helped us do a better job of anticipating problem spots and staying out in front of trouble. Snow removal isn’t something you want to fall behind because catching up is usually twice as expensive and unbelievably labor intensive.
The strategy is to hit the streets hard as early as possible and don’t let up until mother nature blinks and takes a break. I’ve lived through snow operations that fell behind and there’s nothing more painful than watching City crews use jack hammers and ice picks to try to break up the ice jams that formed at intersections. At that point your best bet is to move south.
I realize that snow operations seems fairly simple — start truck, lower plow blade, drive truck, and engage the salt spreader — but there’s actually a lot more than meets the eye to running an effective snow operation. Every decision the operator makes in the course of his/her shift has direct consequences, both for public safety and for costs. A good operator knows the nuances of how each truck handles, how to gauge effective blade height, when to throw salt and how to angle the plow blade for maximum effect (for both clearing the street and minimizing barricading intersections and driveways as much as possible).
To give you a sense of the management of the snow operations, I thought I’d share the most recent snow operations statistical report produced by the snow operations managers; it gives a flavor of the types of variables that are involved in managing a response to potentially dangerous weather events. As you can see below, it turns out this year our costs are averaging about $3,000 per inch of snow — at that rate you can imagine how quickly costs can add up if we don’t manage the operations right.