With last weekend’s heavy snowfall disappearing, City of Edmonds Public Works and Utilities Director Phil Williams said he is “justifiably proud” of the work his employees put in to ensure the city was able to keep the roads clear.
“We have a very dedicated and experienced staff that takes weather events like this very seriously,” Williams said. “They see a storm as their time to shine. Working 12-hour shifts consecutively, especially at night, when your biorhythms are telling you that you should be asleep, is taxing. Operating a snow plow for hours on end takes considerable focus and an ability to think well ahead of the plow blade. Any lapse in concentration can result in an accident and potentially an injury.”
To the staff’s credit, no one was unavailable or called in sick during the snowstorm, Williams said. “That is always a huge plus and speaks to the reliability and professionalism of our public works employees. I am justifiably proud of all they do for the city and often amazed by it.”
Good weather prior to the event and the type of storm itself also helped, Williams added. “We had several days to check our readiness and good weather and plenty of time to prepare for our response, including putting down a good anti-ice application right before the snow hit. We had great support from our mechanics to keep all of our equipment on the road and available.”
Because Edmonds is a smaller city, “we are only able to get a maximum of four truck plows and our de-ice truck on the road at any one time,” he explained. “That is all we can really justify economically and it matches well with the upper limits of our currently available labor pool. It is key that our mechanics keep all of this equipment ready to go in the winter months and also be prepared to quickly repair anything that breaks to maximize equipment uptime.” Part of annual winter preparations for public works staff includes ensuring there are spare parts on hand for plows and trucks, replacement chains for the work trucks and police vehicles, and adequate supplies of deicing chemicals, salt and sand.
Finally, Williams said, the storm “was somewhat different, in a good way, from many that we see here. It happened quickly, dumped a fair amount of snow that was not too dry and fluffy but also not too wet and heavy. That made it ideal for plowing efficiency.” And the temperatures warmed quickly, the snow began to melt with no additional freezing.
“We often get a few days toward the end of a snow event where it melts during the day and freezes hard again at night,” he said. “That allows ice to build up, which can be very resistant to conventional plowing. That makes the roads much slicker, especially when you get some additional snow falling on top of the ice.”