On a rainy fall afternoon, Mayor Michael B. Coleman wanted to assure Columbus residents the city's snow warriors are prepared for much harsher conditions.
"They're fired up and ready to go, because we know the snow's coming," said Coleman, joined by other city officials and road crews Oct. 17 at the new traffic management center on the North Side.
Coleman took the opportunity to promote the center and its state-of-the-art communication system that manages signalization of thousands of traffic lights at roughly 1,000 intersections throughout the city.
The center, through TV cameras, also monitors traffic at the intersections, enabling city employees to change the timing of lights to reduce congestion.
It also serves as the so-called snow operations command center, which tracks weather conditions and the location of trucks, each equipped with GPS devices.
That way, the city can follow the trucks and direct them where to go, Coleman said.
The $38-million upgrade, to be fully implemented by 2018, replaces a system that dates back to the 1970s.
The entire project includes new fiber optics, cameras, monitors, weather information and other equipment. The center formerly was located in the basement of city offices at 109 N. Front St.
"So when it snows, we have to be prepared for what's to come," the mayor said. "We prepare every year, and we get better every year."
The annual audit gave Coleman the opportunity to socialize with plow drivers, hop into the vehicles, honk horns and overall inspect the trucks, some of which are used year-round for duties other than plowing.
Prior to a snow event, the city begins brining major roadways, freeways and overpasses, then starts salting and plowing when the snow starts, said Rick Tilton, spokesman for public service.
After the plowing is done, residents can call the city's general information line -- 645-3111 -- to report missed streets, he said.
Sometimes the calls end up at the service garage.
Dispatcher Rachael Smith said she can receive up to 90 calls a day during snowy weather. People, for the most part, are fairly restrained when they call, Smith said.
"They're nice," she said. "Not very often do we get very many angry people. They just ask questions."