January 23 2019

DPW Director: Sleet, Freezing Rain and Cold Hampered Snow Clean-Up Effort

By: Rich Hosford

It was an effort hindered by sleet and freezing rain but the task to clear all of Burlington’s roads, including the smaller residential streets, is coming to an end.


Department of Public Works Director John Sanchez told BNEWS in an interview on Wednesday afternoon that though the total accumulation of snow was less than forecasted the job was made difficult by fluctuations in the weather. Still, he said, he gives his crew and the hired contractors a lot of credit.


“I want to say that we did pretty good considering the conditions that we had,” he said.


Sanchez said his department started treating the roads on Saturday evening and that crews worked throughout the night to clear the major roads to allow for safe travel. That part, he said, was routine, but then Sunday’s switchover to icier conditions hampered things.


“The entire day Sunday we had sleet,” he said. “That made it difficult. Throughout the day we kept using chemicals and scraped the main roads. That took us all day Sunday and into Monday.”


Monday brought even colder temperatures in the low single digits, which made getting up the last layer of ice difficult, especially on the smaller roads where it had more time to accumulate before plows could reach them.


“When it gets that cold our chemical don’t really work that well,” the DPW Director said. “Salt doesn’t work well below 20 degrees and we were close to zero degrees.”


As of Wednesday evening Sanchez said most of the roads were clear but some work was still ongoing. Work on sidewalks was also underway.


Fortunately, he said, the warming on Wednesday helped loosen up some of the most intractable ice and that expected warmer temps mixed with rain on Thursday should allow them to call the job complete, though it does create a new set of challenges.


The rain will help us melt the snow from the streets but at same time have to make sure the basins are open so the water has a place to go,” he said. “So we’ll be clearing storm drains.”


At the height of the storm the DPW had 65 pieces of equipment clearing the roads, though those number were cut back on Sunday. Sanchez said he didn’t have the exact figures but estimated they used over 500 tons of salt and that in total the clearing operation likely cost “well over $100,000” in total.


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