Historic February snowfall required an equally historic response from Richfield’s Public Works Department
Throughout February, it snowed, and snowed, and snowed. In total, 39 inches of snow fell, which set a new record for the month. The ongoing winter onslaught required the city’s Public Works Department to work long and hard to make sure residents could travel safely on Richfield’s roads and sidewalks.
“If the city receives 39 inches of snow over the course of an entire winter, it is not a big deal,” said Public Works Operations Superintendent Chris Link. ”However, compressing that amount of snow into a 28 day period was very challenging.”
Crews were presented with a test immediately as the calendar turned to February when city was blanketed with freezing rain that quickly turned the roads, sidewalks and surfaces into sheets of ice.
“At Richfield Public Works we are cognizant of the negative environmental effects road salt can have, but with the ice storm at the beginning of the month, we just had to keep applying salt,” said Public Works Operations Supervisor Mark Huiskes. “We did not have an alternative.”
Once crews were able to beat back the ice deposited by the first storm of the month, the city was hit time and again with snow that accumulated in significant amounts.
Prior to every winter storm, the Public Works Department leadership team makes a plan to effectively and efficiently deal with what is coming the city’s way.
“Our winter weather planning and snow removal efforts are data-driven,” emphasized Link.
In February, this usually meant asking plow crews to come in and start battling the snow at four or five in the morning.
“We need to get to the snow before traffic packs it down,” said Kelly Clark, who has been a plow operator with the city for 23 years. “If we can get out there early and lay down some salt and get a good scrape of the road, it will make the morning commute safer and the rest of our snow removal efforts easier.”
However, these valent efforts to clear the roads throughout February have exacted a toll on snow removal employees.
“I think all of us are suffering from a severe lack of sleep,” said Huiskes. “But, our guys take so much pride in the job they do, I do not think I heard a single complaint from a plow operator in February.”
After the city received more than three feet of snow, the problem became where to put it.
“Plowing the streets and making sure they are safe to drive on is one thing, but when you have a month like February where we get 39 inches of snow, we have to haul and store the larger piles of snow,” said Huiskes. “It is hard to find time to get everything done without wearing out our plow operators. As a department, we need to make sure our operators are ready for the next storm.”
During any major winter weather event, residents become important partners with the city’s snow removal crews.
Everything from getting cars off the roads to making sure garbage cans are placed in the proper places goes a long way to helping crews remove as much snow as possible from the roads and sidewalks.
“Our plow crews were put to the test in February and they passed with flying colors,” remembered Public Works Director Kristin Asher. “Most residents don’t realize that our plow operators did not get a day off for two weeks at the end of February. Plus, they started March with a snow event that required them working a 17 hour day.”
The mayor, Maria Regan Gonzalez, had nothing but praise for the Public Works Department’s exemplary efforts throughout the month of February.
“Richfield residents tell me all the time that the plow crews do such a great job of keeping our roads safe and in good condition,” smiled Regan Gonzalez. “Not all cities are as lucky as we are to have such dedicated snow removal professionals.”