Hilliard's director of public service says the city's maintenance staff is prepared to remove snow and ice from the roads this winter season.

Hilliard's director of public service says the city's maintenance staff is prepared to remove snow and ice from the roads this winter season.

Clyde Seidle said there are three priority levels for tackling winter storms, depending on the type of street.

"Snow routes" get top priority, Seidle said. "These are the streets we plow and salt. Those streets are our arterials (higher-volume roads) and our collectors (moderate-volume roads) inside our subdivisions. Those streets are the first that we get to."

The snow routes were recently pre-treated with a salt brine solution to melt early snows to keep it from sticking to the roads. The brine costs less than salt and is better for the environment. The water and salt solution washes off vehicles with soap and water.

"We get into our secondary streets after we get our arterials and collectors done," Seidle said, "the point being that we're trying to move the most people and get those roads open the best we can." The secondary streets are plowed, but not salted.

Salt loses its effectiveness below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and is ineffective below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Hilliard has a full storage barn -- 1,800 tons - of salt on hand for this winter.

"The third component is the cul-de-sacs, because obviously, there's less traffic," Seidle said. "So we've just got to manage our crews in terms of how we attack the snow. That's very consistent with how we've done it year after year."

According to the city's "Snow and Ice Control Plan" (revised in 2007), major streets "will normally be plowed/salted within 4 to 6 hours after the onset of a storm." If there is 1-4 inches of snow, the city estimates it will take 14 to 16 hours to remove it from all the streets. As expected, the time would increase as the amount of snow increases - if more than 10 inches of snow were to accumulate, it would take an estimated 25 to 35 hours to remove.

There are other factors to consider, such as the length of time the storm takes to pass through, and whether the snow is drifting or has changed to freezing rain.

The plan says that "the mayor may declare a snow emergency if three inches or more snow is forecasted in a short period, with the prospect for additional snow, or when snow and/or ice have accumulated to the extent that safe vehicular travel is impaired."

If a snow emergency is declared, vehicles parked along snow routes may be towed if they are not moved within two hours.

Seidle said 20 maintenance technicians, 3 supervisors, 2 mechanics are on hand to tackle winter weather, "and then we have other staff we can call upon, depending upon the storm, who have commercial driver's licenses once we get into an extended snow-fighting process. But the routine is our whole maintenance staff."

The city has 12 snowplows, as well as snowplows on its pickup trucks, Seidle said. If the storm is not considered severe, not all of them may be out at once. "We know about how much material we use, and we budget according to the normal winters. We plan our staffing as storms approach."

The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a cold, snowy winter for much of the United States, but Seidle is more interested in what the National Weather Service and local meteorologists are forecasting in the short term.

"We monitor as we hear about storms advancing, and react that way," Seidle said. "We don't really look at long-term forecasting. They really don't prove to be beneficial to what we're trying to do."