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No sleep for road crews

No sleep for road crews

February 4th, 2011 in News

Mandi Steele/FULTON SUN photo: Fulton Street Department vehicles load snow to be carted off to Morningside, the city storage lot, Thursday morning. The department has been working around the clock trying to clear streets and cart away piles of snow from Tuesday's blizzard.

On Thursday afternoon all 820 miles of Callaway County roads were open for traffic by county road-clearing crews after the county was hit by a one-two punch of an ice storm and blizzard earlier in the week.

Paul Winkelmann, Callaway County highway administrator, said the entire 29-member Callaway County road clearing crew worked at one point for 36 hours without sleep.

"I sent them home about 10 p.m. Wednesday night to get some badly needed sleep. They were back at it again on Thursday morning working on some areas up north where drifting was the biggest problem. We now have a path through all roads. Some are not as wide as we would like but there are some places where it has drifted so high that trucks can't push it and we have to use other equipment," Winkelmann said.

The Callaway County Road and Bridge Department is responsible for clearing all numbered roads in the county. That includes 80 miles of asphalt roads and 740 miles of graveled roads.

"We get a lot of calls from time to time asking us to clear lettered routes in the county (such as Route J or Route F), but the state maintains all lettered roads. The county maintains only numbered roads," Winkelmann said.

Winkelmann said because the National Weather Service had forecasted about a foot of snow or more, he decided to start the crew working after about two inches fell. Under the county's new snow removal policy, crews would have waited until after it had stopped snowing. But an exception was made to the normal snow policy in an attempt to stay ahead of the snow before too much had accumulated.

Winkelmann ordered another exception to the policy when he sent crews out as soon as icing started on Monday.

On Tuesday at about 2 p.m. it was snowing so heavily and the wind was so high a white-out situation began to occur.

"We had to stop plowing about that time for a while until conditions improved," Winkelmann said. At about 1 p.m. the Missouri Department of Transportation closed I-70 until the next morning because visibility was extremely limited.

"Our drivers could not see where the road was Tuesday afternoon. So I had them come back to our headquarters. There were a few down south of the county that continued to plow because they could still see where they were going," Winkelmann said.

"We went back to work about sundown on Tuesday. The entire crew resumed work on clearing roads on Tuesday evening and continued until about 10 p.m. Wednesday. We began to make a lot of progress when the snow stopped about 9 p.m. Tuesday and we kept going," Winkelmann said.

Winkelmann said drifting is always a much bigger problem in the northern part of Callaway County. "It is flat and has a lot of open fields. There are not a lot of hills and trees to break the wind and stop the snow. It just blows and blows and big drifts accumulate. We had some eight-foot drifts," Winkelmann said.

When drifts are extremely high, trucks with blades cannot move the snow. "We had to use V-plows hooked up to the front of a motor grader or a big four-wheel driver loader that we can use. We need V-plows to push six to eight foot drifts. We have only three V-plows," Winkelmann said.

Winkelmann said along County Road 240 west of Kingdom City drifts were high. "There are some areas where there is only one lane. The snow is too deep for plows to push any more out of the way," Winkelmann said. He added there were other roads in the northern part of the county with similar conditions.