Before a single snowflake falls, the City of Delaware Public Works Department is already in motion, determining a plan of action to keep the roads safe.
Jessica Ormeroid, a project engineer with the department, helps oversee the city’s efforts to combat snow and ice. Ormeroid said Monday that whenever a snow event is inbound, public works starts making plans days ahead of time.
For instance, Ormeroid said that last week, public works began monitoring the incoming snowfall and determined that pretreating the roads with brine would be the best course of action. The city reports the brine “prevents snow and ice from bonding to cold road surfaces, allowing for more effective plowing.”
“In this event, we decided to pretreat the (priority) 1s and 2s,” Ormeroid said, referring to primary roads and secondary roads. “We pretreated on Friday and Saturday and kept guys on shift work that way we always have coverage. … We don’t want to do it too early because it will wear off before the event.”
Ormeroid said that during weeks with heavy weather events, the department switches to using two crews on 12-hour shifts starting at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Ormeroid said the shift leads meet during the changeovers to discuss what work was completed and what the next steps will be.
“On Saturday, we made a plan … knowing that the snow was going to hit Sunday,” Ormeroid said. “Making sure trucks are filled and ready to go … making sure we have plans and staff. We want to get the main roads first because they are the highest speed with the most traffic.”
Ormeroid said trucks have been working around the clock since Sunday to clear the main roads as soon as possible and clearing secondary roads when they have the chance. After those roads have been cleared, the department moves onto priority 3 roads, which are residential or neighborhood streets. She said the department prioritizes whichever streets are next for trash collection in order to make sure garbage trucks are unaffected. Ormeroid said the department continues to monitor main roads for black ice throughout the shifts, even after they’ve been cleared.
A new development at the department this year is software that allows the department to monitor most of the trucks and keep track of their routes and progress.
“It can monitor salt output, when the plow is down and speed,” Ormeroid said. “It can show us what roads have been hit. … It’s been very helpful. The data that it has is great.”
Ormeroid said shift leads can look at the map to see which areas are in need of treatment next, and said the 4-by-4 trucks that plow cul-de-sacs have not yet been equipped with GPS. She added once the equipment arrives, they will be able to track the progress of all city trucks.
Ormeroid stressed the importance of keeping cars off the street during snow events because trucks have to maneuver around them, which slows down routes.
She added that mailboxes can sometimes be damaged or knocked over during snow clearing, and residents should make sure their mailboxes are at least 6-inches behind the face of the curb. Residents with damaged mailboxes can contact the city to file a report via the city’s website.
The city reported about $340,000 was spent in the winter of 2020-2021 on snow and ice removal. The city added that 3,000 tons of salt and 160,000 gallons of pretreatment brine are used in the average winter.
Looking ahead, Ormeroid said crews will continue to clear Sunday and Monday’s snowfall, and they are already working on a plan to deal with the snow that is forecast to fall on the city at the end of the week.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.