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Snows Testing Residents, Crews Supervisors Receive Update

By Staff | Feb 18, 2010

SNOW TESTS CREWS – Whenever the wind blows lately in the area, road and street crews not only have to plow the roads and streets, now they have to find places to move the snow to. The north curve by the Five Island Golf Course, north of Emmetsburg, required a county payloader to push the snow back away from the road surface once again to try and keep the curve from drifting in completely. A thaw would be greatly appreciated in the region, and soon! — Dan Voigt photo

With around 60 inches of snow covering the landscape, non-stop winds on Sunday and Monday made for a long session for road crews, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors learned in its weekly session Tuesday. The patience of county residents, along with the snow removal crews, continues to be tested by the extreme winter.

“I was talking with one of our operators this morning before I came over,” County Engineer Joel Fantz told the board members. “Dave Neilson told me that it’s the worst he’s seen out in the country anymore.”

Fantz noted that with the winds blowing so strong out of the northwest on Sunday and Monday, road crews were fighting a losing battle on Monday to try and keep east-west roads open, let alone being able to get to many of the county’s gravel roads.

“We never really pulled our plows off the roads on Monday,” Fantz said, “but we did concentrate on keeping the paved roads open and widening them by winging them back to hopefully hold them overnight, rather than just punching a hole in them and hoping for the best.”

Supervisors Ed Noonan and Keith Wirtz noted they had received phone calls from constituents just minutes before Fantz arrived at the board meeting, asking why all the roads hadn’t been plowed on Monday.

“The east-west roads really didn’t get touched yesterday,” Fantz agreed. “We knew with the wind, we just wouldn’t be able to hold them.”

“How does our county compare to others, snow-wise?” Supervisor Leo Goeders asked.

“We’re worse off,” Board Chair Jerry Hofstad said. “We’ve got more snow and there just aren’t a lot of places left to go with it.”

All agreed that the crews were doing the best they could with the conditions, and that the roads would be opened, but probably not as fast as some residents might hope for.

In a related item, Fantz reported that the county’s large Sno-Go blower was broken down with a broken hangar bearing and shaft, but parts were arriving to get the big blower back in operation as soon as possible. “We talk about having another blower like that, but now is sure not the time to try and go out and buy one,” Fantz noted.

“But I bet the public would support buying one right now,” Noonan observed.

Fantz also advised the board that he would be preparing the map of embargoes for the county’s hard surfaced roadways in the next two weeks. “The snow will melt, trust me,” the engineer said. “And when it does, we’ll need to set our embargo route4s to try and protect our roads.”

An embargo lasting three weeks was put in place last Spring when the frost went out, but some stretches of road still sustained significant damage, including a stretch of county road B14 three miles west of Graettinger. Repairs to the stretch cost the county over $300,000, something the board wants to try and avoid this year.

“There’s a lot of snow out there,” Fantz said. “This embargo is going to be dependant on how the snow melts. Because of that, I think people may need to count on longer embargo periods this year. These embargoes are something we’ve talked about enough over time, so it shouldn’t be any surprise out there.”

“Most people agree with the embargoes,” Hofstad said. “They don’t like it, but they agree with it.”

Fantz also noted that embargoes on four bridges in the county would be changed for this year. The Kirby-Flynn Bridge over the Des Moines River southeast of Emmetsburg will be restored to service and rated at eight tons.

A bridge in Independence Township will have its load rating reduced by four tons, while two bridges in Emmetsburg Township will be reduced to 13 and 15 tons.

Wirtz introduced a resolution to make the changes in weight limits, and moved to approve the changes. The motion was seconded by Goeders and approved on a unanimous roll-call vote, with Supervisor Ron Graettinger absent and not voting.