Weekend snow puts a strain on municipal budgets, but city officials say snow removal from Saturday’s storm went smoothly, as Cranston had its first real dose of winter weather.
“I thought the plowing crews from our own internal people to the outside vendors did a great job staying on top of the storm, making sure that the roads were cleared and we didn’t hear many complaints this time around,” said Mayor Allan Fung.
The estimated cost of the storm, including materials and vendor costs, is roughly $145,000 – exactly one-quarter of the city’s $580,000 overall snow removal budget for this winter. Fung pointed out that the figure includes advance purchasing of salt and sand for the entire winter, inflating the initial storm costs. Costs also go up during the weekend, as the city must pay overtime rates.
Still, Fung is not overly worried about the snow removal budget that remains.
“You can’t call for a storm when you want to. The fact of the matter is, we’re going to be prepared through any other storm,” he said.
City crews pretreated main thoroughfares with a mixture of sand and salt prior to the snowfall.
“We tackled it head on,” said Carlos Lopez, Fung’s chief of staff.
Crews then mobilized at 4 p.m. Saturday, utilizing 30 city plow trucks. Fleet maintenance was called in to make any needed repairs to plows, and dispatchers for the city’s 16 plow districts were called in, with approximately 50 employees working during the storm. Another 100 outside vendors were called in for additional plowing at 6 p.m. Saturday.
According to the National Weather Service, approximately 7.6 inches of snow fell in Cranston starting late Saturday afternoon, tapering off as the evening progressed, with only trace amounts of precipitation continuing into Sunday.
According to Director of Public Works Ken Mason, city crews and vendors worked until 6 a.m. Sunday. Building maintenance personnel were brought in later on Sunday to clear sidewalks for city buildings. The Cranston School Department fortunately did not have to consider closures or delays, as the snow hit on Saturday and students were still on winter break until Wednesday of this week.
While weekend storms are more costly, Fung said the timing kept roads clear for crews.
“It allowed our crews to be really on top of the storm, with not as many vehicles, not only on the road, but we had the parking ban in effect early. It allowed for an effective and efficient operation,” he said.
The biggest challenges facing city personnel during the storm were problem areas like the hills of western Cranston and plowing narrow, dead end streets. Mason said additional challenges occur whenever vehicle owners ignore the city-issued parking ban that started Saturday at noon.
Just days before New Year’s, Saturday’s snow was the first round of severe winter weather. Prior to this weekend, Cranston had seen just 1.7 inches of snow – a season total of 9.3 inches to date. Nationwide, the National Weather Service has named and classified six storms in the winter of 2012 and 2013, starting with Athena in early November and including this weekend’s “Freyr,” which was heaviest in the Ohio Valley.
Mason added that the effects of the storm were felt even after the weekend.
“City plows are continuing efforts around streets by sanding and salting areas that have iced over,” he said in an email. “These conditions were somewhat exacerbated with the high wind conditions we had on Sunday, which blew snow back onto the roads.”