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* News Release *
 
Thursday, December 30, 2004
For Immediate Release

WINTER STORM WRAP-UP

One week after a massive winter storm dumped up to two feet of snow on parts of Butler County, the statistics continue to pile up. Snow and ice control crews from the Butler County Engineer's Office are still working the roads, cleaning up and pushing huge mounds of snow off the berms in order to give drivers more room and better sight distance.

County Engineer Greg Wilkens said that all roads on the County system were passable by Christmas Day allowing crews to spend the holiday with their families. Since then however, they have been working around the clock with additional cleanup efforts. Once the heavy snow had been plowed off the roads, sub-zero temperatures through the weekend hampered the effectiveness of salt on roadway surfaces. Moderating temperatures above freezing have now rapidly accelerated the melting process. "Our roads are in very good condition at this point but motorists may still encounter patches of densely packed snow and ice, mainly on rural roads, so please continue to drive cautiously," Wilkens advised. "Fortunately, overnight temperatures are predicted to stay above freezing, so the danger of snowmelt and slush re-freezing on exposed roadway surfaces should be minimal."

As snow and ice control efforts continue into a second week, man hours and overtime have begun to mount. "It was a 26-hour storm," said Wilkens, "but the aftereffects have been significant due to the sheer volume of snow we received in a short time. Our crews did a phenomenal job of clearing the County roads quickly. Most were passable by the next day. But the additional cleanup of the roadway surfaces, berms, and mountainous piles of snow takes additional effort."

Operations Deputy Scott Bressler added "Our guys have worked a lot of long hard hours, sacrificing holiday and weekend time away from their families so that others can travel safely. They've done an outstanding job and we're extremely proud of them. Not to be forgotten are the behind-the-scenes efforts of many, including Operations Manager Roger Johnson, and Denny Hileman and Wayne Sears, the Operations Supervisors for our snow and ice control teams. Operations Secretary Angie Weber handles phone calls and requests for service, time sheets, material tickets, and more. She has a way of keeping things highly organized in the office even though her workload triples during a storm like this."

Bressler also acknowledged the mechanics who keep the fleet running and must often make repairs to trucks out on the road. "These guys are sometimes on their backs in the snow underneath a truck in the cold and the dark," he said. "Because of their efficiency and preparedness, the Engineer's fleet experienced very few mechanical problems or breakdowns, which saves time and money."

Some Stats

Since the storm began BCEO crews have worked a total of 1,466 hours, 853 of those being overtime hours for a total labor cost of $36,572. Approximately 1,175 tons of salt have been spread at a cost of $34,075. Nearly 3,100 gallons of calcium chloride were mixed with the salt. Prior to the storm, 1,335 gallons of salt brine were applied to pre-treat the roadways. Equipment costs associated with this storm totaled $37,538.

Preliminary figures indicate that the total cost of this major winter storm storm so far is $109,859; however, that number is expected to rise since crews continue to perform cleanup along berms and at intersections.

Storm Review

BCEO snow and ice control crews were dispatched at 4:00 a.m. last Wednesday as rain gave way to sleet and snow. Moderate to heavy snow fell most of the day, frustrating efforts to keep roads clear. "It was coming down so fast you couldn't even tell I'd been there ten minutes after plowing a road," said one snow plow driver. "We were chasing our tails," said another. Many BCEO personnel had to be picked up at their homes in 4-wheel drive vehicles because they couldn't get out of their own driveways.

When the snow tapered off by 6:00 the next morning, accumulations ranged from 16 to 24 inches around much of the County, with about 10 to 12 inches in the southeast corner. BCEO crews reported drifts of six to eight feet high across some roads in the northern and western townships. But as the storm moved out of the area, crews were able to quickly catch up and tackle the monumental job of permanently removing the deep snow from County roads.

Front-end loaders were utilized to break through drifts too large for even a plow to handle. "In many cases it was necessary to have a front-end loader and plow working in tandem to get a road open," said Bressler. "Because of the huge volume of snow, this was primarily a plowing event, with salt being used only after most of the snow had been removed from roadway surfaces. As the temperatures dropped into the single digits and eventually below zero, calcium chloride was also utilized to help improve the salt's effectiveness."

Bressler also noted that the Level 3 Snow Emergency declared by the Butler County Sheriff helped with snow removal efforts. "It allowed our crews to clear the roads faster and more effectively since there were fewer cars to contend with. Some of our snow plow drivers did report that motorists seemed thankful to see them, smiling and waving as they went by."

A Challenging Job

BCEO crews are sometimes asked which they prefer -- treating roads in heavily developed locations such as West Chester Township or out in the remote and hilly areas northwest of the Great Miami River. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, according to Allen Drake and Wayne Verling, who work the west and east sides of the County respectively. "The traffic in West Chester Township can make your job more difficult, but the roads are more defined and easier to see because everything is so built up," said Verling. However, Drake noted that the rural roads on the other side of the County carry less traffic which makes them easier to plow, but the drifting is usually more extensive and the edges of the roads can be harder to find. "It can be kind of scary. You have to be very familiar with your route, know your roads, ditch lines, and any and all landmarks, even certain trees, poles, and mailboxes, to help guide you."

For an idea of what some of our snow plow drivers encounter, click on the images below. See what these winter warriors experience firsthand.

Click on images to enlarge.
You're the snow plow driver. Try to find the road.
Can you find the road in this picture?
The stop sign helps here. .............
Snow plow drivers must use their memory of roads and landmarks as well as their best judgment.
The telephone poles help define the edges of this road. .................. .................................
Conditions begin to ease. ...................................... ............. ......................................
After a couple passes with a plow sometimes roadway surfaces become visible.
Snow and ice control crews plowed thru two feet of snow in places.
Drifts, some as high as eight feet, required front-end loaders to break through.
Progress is made along Somerville Road. ...................................... .............. .....................................
Despite sub-freezing cold, sunshine helps the effectiveness of salt after the heavy snow has been plowed off. ..........................
Once roads are plowed and passable, crews can begin to clear berms and intersections and remove packed snow from roadway surfaces.

# # #

For more information contact:

Chris Petrocy, BCEO Public Information Supervisor
Greg Wilkens, P.E., P.S., Butler County Engineer
Phone 513.867.5744 • Fax 513.867.5849


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