Thursday, December 2, 2010

Clomp, clomp, clomp ... the City of Spokane breaks out the graders

Posted on Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 2:13 PM

With dozens of Spokanites reporting on Thursday that they and their cars are being held prisoner in the slushy clutches of residential streets, Mayor Mary Verner and streets supervisor Mark Serbousek announced they are sending graders to the rescue.

The city declared a Stage 2 snow emergency for the second time in a week, diverting snow removal resources to residential streets. Serbousek says it could take five days of round-the-clock plowing to free the city from its current mess.

The light, fluffy snow that fell like crazy during the frigid Thanksgiving week morphed into a nasty, oatmeal-ish, wheel-grabbing goo when temperatures broke above the freezing mark and snow turned to rain yesterday. Commuters awoke to thick slush and deep ruts and found that many cars floundered in the mess.

Her own commute in her four-year-old Prius, "was a wild adventure," Verner says. "My street was really slippery and a bit of a thrill — and it's not the worst. I know this is really a challenge" for residents getting out of their neighborhoods, she adds.

"The snow we are trying to push right now is so heavy our front plows can't push it," Serbousek says.

Hence calling out the heavier — but slower — graders to augment the truck-mounted plows. The city has 10 graders of its own and contracted to hire 12 more, Serbousek says. They are headed to the worst of the residential neighborhoods this afternoon.

These are routes 9 and 13 on the north side, 3 and 5 on the South Hill. See the city snowplow map for more info.

Each grader will work in tandem with a truck plow to try and herk the snow towards the curb. If even that doesn't work, the graders will work in pairs, Serbousek says. To aid in the removal, Verner and Serbousek ask residents to park on the even-numbered sides of streets so that the graders and plows have a clean shot moving snow off the streets. Plus, it goes faster.

The city has 2,200 "lane miles" of streets, Serbousek says. The contract graders work at a rate of $95 to $125 an hour. Any help from citizens to speed things up is appreciated, he says.

Garbage trucks have been hefty enough to maneuver through the snow, but lighter recycling trucks are getting stalled in places, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist says. Homes where the recycling was missed today will have it collected next week, she says.

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