Snow blows: With record February snow, city crews are working overtime


Matt Hudson The mailboxes on Longview Drive in New Brighton are covered but still functioning. Public works officials say that finding space for all the snow has been a challenge after a snowy February.

Matt Hudson A city-owned truck in North St. Paul gets a load of snow to haul away from a Seventh Avenue East parking lot.

Crews from the New Brighton Public Works Department have been dispatched to clear the entirety of the city 11 times this winter, according to department Superintendent Scott Boller.

While it isn’t a record, he said it keeps workers busy, particularly when the snow keeps coming — and coming.

“We were fortunate to have had a slow start to winter as far as snowfall is concerned,” Boller said in an email. “February changed all of that and we found ourselves over 10 inches above the average snowfall rate for the season.”

The onslaught of snow created a tough month for road crews. Boller said that there’s usually some melt between snowstorms, but not this year. When a crew goes out to repair a busted water main, clear a park trail or haul out snow from the middle of a culdesac, it just starts snowing again. And plowing the main drag becomes the priority once more.

It’s the same story for cities across the northeast metro area. The National Weather Service recorded 39 inches of snow for February, making it the snowiest second month of the year. The month contributed most of the 56 inches of snow that’s fallen this winter.

Mark Maloney, public works director in Shoreview, said that city policy lays out priorities for plowing. Main roads get primary attention, then culdesacs and lower-volume residential roads. And when the weather keeps attention on those areas, pedestrian spaces get snowed in.

“It’s really been a challenge in the last month, especially with the sidewalk and trail snow removal,” he said. “We tend to hear a lot from people that are anxious to use the sidewalks and trails, but because the snow is so deep right now you can’t really plow them anymore. You have to snow blow them.”

Maloney said they’re running out of space to push the snow aside. Just about every neighborhood is walled in with snow banks that measure in feet, covering mailboxes and anything else on the sidewalk.

“The biggest challenge, I think right now, is the fire hydrants,” said Mounds View Public Works Director Don Peterson. “Making sure those are cleared.”

All things considered, the officials said that things have gone about as smooth as they could this season. Equipment breaks down, mailboxes get clipped by plows and driveways get blocked, but that’s going to happen in any winter.

Ice control has gone well in New Brighton, Boller said. He said that quick responses to storms have kept roads pretty clear, though he added crews are always conscious of the amount of salt solution they’re putting down.

 

Big melt

Come springtime, the snow will flow into the water system.

Officials said that one of the first jobs will be to check drainage and stormwater management systems.

“As soon as the melt gets under way, crews will be working to uncover and open any storm water catch basin that is unable to receive runoff,” Boller said.

His department got data that equated the current snow to about four inches of water, he said. And a slow melt, mixed with few spring rain events, will reduce the risk of flooding.

Spring river levels will be a major point of concern for the entire upper Mississippi River drainage. The weather over the next two months will give meteorologists a better idea of what to expect, according to a National Weather Service outlook bulletin.

In the short term, it might be nice to get some of that snow out of the way.

“Overall, I think we’re doing pretty well,” Maloney said. “We could really use some warm weather and some melt.”

 

–Matt Hudson can be reached at mhudson@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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