Mountain of snow: City crews working overtime to make roads passable

Posted 2/18/21

There was a benefit to the past week’s unpleasant temperatures. If it had been warm enough for motorists to roll down their windows, the nasty language springing from their mouths as they …

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Mountain of snow: City crews working overtime to make roads passable

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There was a benefit to the past week’s unpleasant temperatures. If it had been warm enough for motorists to roll down their windows, the nasty language springing from their mouths as they crossed the railroad tracks could have made a gangsta rapper blush. 

For days, crossing the tracks could test your shocks and loosen your fillings. People tried to make new paths in virgin snow, but no matter which way or angle was attempted, the bumps helped turn even the most persistent smiles upside-down.

The City of Powell streets crew was “catching a lot of the blame,” said Streets Superintendent Andy Metzler. But it’s not the city’s fault, he said. “We need permission from the railroad to do maintenance within 25 feet of the tracks.”

So until Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad officials approved the plans, the city couldn’t lift a shovel to fix the problem. The situation changed Tuesday and the city rolled out the heavy equipment and manpower to remove the obstacles.

It’s been a rough week for the crew. For the past two years snow removal has been fairly simple: They averaged about 12 truckloads a year, Metzler said. But so far this winter, they’ve removed more than 300 truckloads carrying 5 yards of snow each. “We’re at max capacity right now,” Metzler said, adding, “We’re going to have to leave snow in the center of some roads. We have nowhere to put it all.”

Metzler said they could use a hand from residents. He asked that drivers give crews clearance while they work, allowing the job to move faster and safer for everyone involved. He also urged residents to refrain from moving snow from their sidewalks to the streets. “The best spot to move your snow to is on your grass,” he said.

The six-man team is wearing down, Metzler said. “If it snows like this again, we’re going to be a tired crew.”

City Administrator Zack Thorington gave kudos to the city’s water and streets departments, both of which had to deal with issues related to the cold. The cold snap put a lot of demands on them, he said. “They’ve really been running rampant.” 

The Powell Water Department had 50 calls. Many were problems with frozen pipes inside homes. 

There were no water main breaks until early Wednesday morning at Avenue E and Division Street. Fortunately, it was a smaller 6-inch line, as opposed to one of the larger water mains, and the city was able to repair the line and restore water to homes in the area by Wednesday afternoon. 

“The street crews get out really early to do that grading, when there’s no cars. Then they come out on the weekends and do sanding,” Thorington said. “They’ve been busting their tails.”

(Kevin Killough contributed reporting.)

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