Springfield digs out after another of many snows

Springfield area nears a record with snowfall totals

The snowfall was intense throughout Minnesota this winter, and February has been a long month for crews who plow highways and streets, and all who have had to shovel snow!

With snow falling almost every other day, plowing crews have been having difficult times getting all streets and alleys plowed before the next snow arrives. 

Snow removal in Springfield is based on a road-priority system, with high-use roads and emergency and transit routes first on the list. 

“We focus on the emergency routes to ensure that emergency vehicles get to where they need to go,” said Springfield City Manager Joe Stremcha.   The first streets to be plowed are those  leading to the hospital/clinic, St. John’s Circle of Care, the schools, major access streets to the central business district.

The county or state plows take care of Highway 14 and helps with the plowing of Cass Avenue, a major thoroughfare. 

Under extreme winter storm conditions, snow and ice control operations are carried out based on the capacity of resources in as continuous a manner as practicable. This gives crews the flexibility to provide relief in residential areas while simultaneously maintaining and clearing priority roads.

 “Our crews have been hauling snow to make room for more,” said Stremcha. “We’re hauling to the hockey rink area in Riverside Park, by Salonek’s Pit and the state-owned (MnDOT) lot west of Sanborn Manufacturing.  We help maintain the area so MnDOT has given us permission to use it.”

Much snow is piled high and wide on privately-owned lots throughout the city. “The city will help with snow removal at a rate of $100 per hour, (plus hauling charge if hauled away), so it appears that most are banking the snow and saving the costs.

The plowing crew starts work sometimes at 2 a.m., sometimes 4 a.m.  “We try to be flexible to accommodate weather forecasts.”  Some days they’ll start late in the afternoon after the weather clears and blowing and drifting stops.

When plowing begins, the crew moves usually from east to west with plows, payloader and Sno-Go snow blower.

“It’s been difficult to get to the alleys,” Stremcha said, because the crews aren’t able to get all the plowing done before it snows again.” 

Stremcha rode in a plow truck during recent days, driving up and down Hoyt and Paffrath Avenues. “It helped me get a better perspective of what is happening out there so that I can help better communicate to people who call in with comments or complaints.”  After a snowfall, he usually receives several phone calls with inquiries or complaints.  “One doesn’t fully appreciate what is happening in those plowing trucks until you’ve been there,” he said. 

There have been some problems with garbage cans and mail boxes.   Some residents haven’t been conscientious about retrieving garbage carts and recycling cans, and sometimes they are blown away by wind and end up in the snow and get hit by plows.   

Snow removal operations are difficult  to perform, residents are requested to park in their driveways or off the street if possible. People have been pretty good about moving their cars to accommodate plowing,” said Stremcha.   Parked cars cause problems for plows. Snow plow operators want to remind folks to try and keep those vehicles on driveways so the job can be done quicker. 

Please keep in mind that it is almost impossible to keep snow from being deposited at your driveway during plowing, as the plow cannot be lifted or stopped at each driveway it passes. “We  empathize with residents who have shoveled their driveway clear of snow and then the plows go by an hour or so later and they have to shovel again. We’re sorry about that but it  happens everywhere” in snow country, commented Stremcha. 

If you clear your driveway before the street is plowed, here is a tip that will minimize the amount of snow left in front of your driveway. When your driveway is cleared, clear an area adjacent to the driveway entrance. When your street is plowed, the snow from the plow can be unloaded in this area instead of your driveway. Plows sometimes find it necessary to make several passes, in order to clear snow all the way to the curb to allow for proper drainage. Please do not empty snow from your driveway into the street. This slows the overall plowing operation. Also, if snow is placed in the street and  freezes,  it  can  create a traffic hazard.

Motorists should use caution around plows. Reduce your speed, keep your distance and don’t pass snow removal equipment while it is plowing and salting. Their visibility is very restricted to the rear of the vehicle.

 “Our snowplow operators are seeing inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow and motorists driving too fast for conditions,” said Todd Stevens, acting state maintenance engineer. “These are the main causes of crashes with snowplows. Our drivers are well trained to drive their plows, but motorists should be patient, stay back from the plow and only pass when it is safe to do so.” He said snowplows travel highways much slower than the posted speeds because it is most effective for clearing roads. Operators’ ability to see behind them is restricted behind the truck so they must rely on mirrors to see to the rear and side of the truck. “Their vision is also hampered by the snow clouds created while they plow. So, the safest place you can be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates,” said Stevens.

Sometimes people are critical of the speed at which the plows are being operated on city streets. Be mindful that certain speeds must be maintained in order to cut through heavy snow and if they slow up too much they can get stuck.   Now when snowbanks are high, plowing trucks must move at a higher speed in order to get the snow up over the banks.  

Checking your mailbox now will keep you worry free all winter when snow plows pass by. Please ensure your mailbox is secure and does not lean over the curb-line. Mailboxes that lean over the curb-line are more likely to get hit by a snowplow. Mailboxes and mailbox posts that are loose, rotten or in generally poor condition can be knocked over 

Please educate your children on the dangers of snow removal and make sure they play safely. Snow banks make it difficult to see children. Remind them to never build tunnels or snow banks near the street; keep sleds and toys out of the street and away from the edge of the road. Stay away from the plow — children should stay back at least 20 feet or more from then road.

Please be patient. As we have not yet figured out how to stop snow from falling in Springfield during the winter months, snowplowing will be necessary. Snow removal is a difficult and time consuming job. Since snow removal crews need many hours to complete snow clearing operations, please try to limit your travel during and immediately following a snowfall. If travel is absolutely necessary, be prepared to be delayed. The less traffic on the streets during snow clearing operations, the quicker the job can be accomplished.

“We haven’t gone down the path of the Snow Emergency yet,” said Stremcha.  We have been able to keep roads plowed wide enough. Snow Emergencies are called after significant snowfall when special parking rules go into effect. When a snow emergency is declared, residents are asked to follow specific parking guidelines — park on one side of the street or other.  “ If it keeps snowing we might have to have these kind of conversations, maybe not yet, but it’s on the radar,” he added. 

Springfield Advance-Press

13 S. Marshall Avenue PO Box 78 Springfield, MN 56087