Snow safety

County reminds residents to take caution when plows are out

With our first measurable snowfall likely just around the corner, county officials are reminding residents to be safe while traveling the roads this winter.

“So far we’ve, in my opinion, been lucky, and haven’t had really any winter weather to deal with,” said Hamilton County Engineer Nicole Stinn.

With snow expected soon in the forecast, the county has their equipment ready to go. The county has 930 miles to cover.

“Our trucks have been prepped and are all ready to go,” Stinn said. “They all the wings or wing posts put on them. Not only do they have their plow blade on the front of the truck, but they have a wing that sticks out the side so that they can push the snow off the shoulders and get it clear out of the way of the road.”

Generally, the county trucks are sent out on the paved county roads that are not in city jurisdiction. The motor graders also have their wings on and are ready to go. The graders are used for gravel roads throughout the county. According to Stinn, this may vary depending on the severity of storm.

“If it’s really blowing and we can’t keep our pavements open we could potentially pull our motor graders to help on the pavements instead of getting to the gravel as soon,” Stinn said. “On the flip side, after we’ve got everything cleared out and we need some more help clearing the gravel, we can use our trucks to help with that.”

The county has ten truck routes and territories the county pavements are divided into. There are 11 truck operators on staff for the ten routes. There are ten county gravel motor grader districts. The county generally stays out of each town’s city limits when removing snow.

“Generally anything outside of the city is going to be our responsibility. We have 28E agreements with most of the cities in the county,” said Stinn. “So especially for the small towns we might do a road here or there.”

Stinn explained that gravel roads typically get passed through first to allow for one-lane traffic. Later, with time and resources allowing, drivers will return to open up these roads for two lane traffic.

“The goal is just to get everyone out of their house as soon as possible with at least one lane to drive through,” Stinn said.

Stinn advises residents to be patient with drivers and the time it takes to clear the roads.

“On average, our motor graders each have 70-75 miles to cover,” Stinn said. “They are moving the whole time. They are clearing it as efficiently as they can.”

“We’ll get to you as soon as we can,” Stinn said. “We do have routes set up to be the most efficient way possible that we can open everyone up soonest.”

The county’s general working hours on gravel are 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This is per the county ordinance. A snow emergency must be declared in order to remove snow on gravel roads outside of this time frame. The county’s general working hours on pavement are 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“I always think those are good times for people to know they can expect us out there at 5 a.m. on the pavement and 7 a.m. on the gravel.

The county has GPS tracking on all of their drivers’ cell phones to tell where they are at.

“If you have a question of when they’re going to get to you, feel free to call in and talk to us and we can give you some help on when they may be expected to be there,” Stinn said.

Individuals can call (515) 832-9520. If there is an emergency or issue after hours, Stinn reminds people to call 911.

For the trucks to be sent out on the paved county roads, Stinn stated a good rule of thumb is an inch of snow and for gravel, two to three inches. It varies based on heavy vs. light snow, ice and other conditions.

Stinn also reminds residents to be cautious of snow removal equipment on the paved and gravel roads. Heavy equipment operators have low visibility while clearing snow, especially depending on the conditions they are out in.”

“Our operators – I have had the privilege to go out and ride with them – they truly cannot see or feel where they are going,” said Stinn. “They’re up higher, but they are busting through all of that snow and it’s blowing across their windshield. It’s essentially a whiteout for them.”

According to county policy, when nearing a snow removal vehicle, drivers should slow down at least 25 miles per hour under the posted speed limit. With respect to roadways with only one lane open, drivers’ speed should not exceed 10 miles per hour.

“People should be cautious,” said Stinn. “If you could stay back at least 300 feet that would allow them to view you in their mirror.”