Plowing Forward – DPW tries to Keep One Step Ahead of the Snow
-By Joseph Domelowicz
For the Transcript
After five major snowstorms in the past six weeks, Public Works Director Dave Hickey and his crew would seem to have a handle on snow removal. Of course, they’re running out places to put the white stuff.
In preparation for the two -storms-in-two-days forecast, the town instituted a parking ban that began Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. and according to Hickey was likely to remain in place through the evening on Wednesday, to ensure that road crews would have sufficient time to remove the snow and clear all streets for public safety purposes.
“Things have been going pretty well since the first storm started,” explained Hickey. “There was a period Tuesday afternoon when we felt we were getting behind a bit, but then the first storm stopped and there was a lull and we caught up again.”
By Tuesday afternoon six inches of snow had fallen on Winthrop, before the first storm blew out to sea and an eight to ten hour window of calm began before the second storm hit early Wednesday morning.
“On Tuesday evening, around 7 p.m. we went to a thinner staff, sent most of the crews home to get some rest and brought them back at 3 a.m.,” explained Hickey on Wednesday morning. “We wanted to make sure that we had the most coverage when we were getting the most snow and fortunately we timed it right. We got another two inches or so in the period between 3 or 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.”
As of that point in the storm, Hickey said the forecast was calling for alternating bands of precipitation to include sleet and freezing rain and finally giving way to another inch or two of snow during the Wednesday afternoon/evening commute.
The timing of the storm has also been a benefit to the town’s budget, as the majority of the storm on Tuesday happened during the normal work day, so that town news only had to work a half-day of overtime on Tuesday and another half-day of overtime when they went in early on Wednesday morning.
“For a lot of the storm, our guys were on straight time, so hopefully that will help us out in the budget area,” added Hickey.
However, with another storm in the long-range forecast for next Tuesday, Hickey said the town has already begun to run out of storage for the snow and other options are now being considered, including the possibility of banning parking on some small side streets or even asking the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for a permit to allow the town to dump snow into the harbor.
“Our biggest street parking issues prior to this storm were on the side streets off of Winthrop Shore Drive,” said Hickey. “But over last weekend (Jan. 29 and 30) we sent some heavy equipment down to those streets and really pushed the snow mounds back to the sidewalks to make room for traffic and parking on the streets.”
Hickey admitted that the effort did anger some beach area residents, who had to go out again and clear driveways and sidewalk paths a second time, but said the effort overall was a success.
“We were able to gain about two-feet of space on the streets and really open them up again,” he said. “I know that some people were upset about having to shovel paths and driveways again, but the alternative was that we would have had to close those streets to parking with the next big storm.”
According to the public works chief, the town’s police and fire chiefs have been asked to assess other side streets in town and make recommendations on which streets could use a similar push back, before the parking would be lifted on Wednesday night.
“We’ve also talked about getting a waiver from DEP and depending on how tings go with the rest of this storm and the one they’re already predicting for next Tuesday, we might be right behind Boston in asking for a waiver next week as well,” said Hickey. “We’re just running out of places to put it.”