Columbus on snow removal: 'We're ready'
Roy Hogan doesn't really care for the cold, but he's ready for the snow.
Hogan is a 16-year "snow warrior" veteran whose shift clearing highways starts at 7:30 a.m. During a snow emergency, that puts him smack-dab in the middle of the morning rush hour.
Add 5 or 6 inches of snow to the morning commute and things can get intense, particularly when people aren't driving safely, Hogan said.
"Sometimes it's a little scary," he said. "You've got 6 or 7 tons of salt in your truck and somebody stops right in front of you. You just can't stop on a dime."
But Hogan is undaunted, driving the 7-ton International WorkStar truck, complete with GPS and a radio.
Hogan, who works out of the facility at 1881 E. 25th St. in the Linden area, is one of 111 snow warriors in the city of Columbus. There are another 90 trained to help out during snow emergencies.
"It's never enough," said Tim Baker, street maintenance supervisor, "but it's what we deal with. We make it happen."
Snow warriors aren't just responsible for snow removal. They also fix potholes, clean litter from the right of way and do other jobs during their work days, Tilton said.
A total of 137 vehicles, including 66 dump trucks and 29 one-ton pickup trucks, are at the ready.
Rick Tilton, Columbus' deputy director of public service, said the city is responsible for 6,348 lane miles, which is more than the lane miles of the cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati combined.
Of course, at 227 square miles, Columbus is nearly three times as big as each of those cities.
"We're ready to go," Tilton said. "Our guys undergo training every fall and have to reacquaint themselves with the equipment.
"Even our most-seasoned drivers go through this training," he said.
Because of last year's mild winter, Columbus has nearly 27,000 tons of salt -- the most in two years -- located in six barns throughout the city.
"We had salt already in the barns, so the salt that was remaining from last winter in the barns is still available," Tilton said.
"For that reason, we are spending less than we usually will spend on salt at the very beginning of a winter season."
Prior to the winter of 2010-11, the city joined an Ohio Department of Transportation-led consortium that helped lower the price of salt to $50.92 per ton -- about $7.50 less per ton than the city paid last season.
During a snow event, the first priority is the freeway system -- portions of state Routes 315 and 104 and U.S. Route 33.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is responsible for interstates 70, 71, 670 and 270.
Once the freeways are cleared, the city turns its attention to arterials streets such as High Street, Broad Street and Morse Road, followed by collector streets.
Finally, the city focuses on residential streets, once 4 inches of snow have fallen.
Residents are asked to pitch in to help with snow removal.
Whenever possible, motorists are asked to park vehicles in driveways or parking lots and off streets to give plow trucks room to plow.
Homeowners should pile snow in yards, not onto the sidewalk or the street.
Motorists also can help by driving safely and staying at least 100 feet behind a salt truck while it's in operation.
Baker said he's seen too many impatient drivers tailgating the warriors.
"They don't respect the salt truck," he said.