With freezing temperatures and snowfall predicted for this week in Western Washington, local officials are preparing to deal with any inclement weather.
Cities start preparing in the fall by meeting with partners and getting their equipment ready.
“We get together with other agencies to talk about what worked and where there were challenges,” said Jesse Perrault, Marysville’s city streets supervisor.
They also have a meeting with the Washington State Department of Transportation
“The big discussion this year was about material discussion,” said Perrault.
The city used 525 tons of sand and 78 tons of salt last year.
“Last year during the big February storm most agencies had trouble acquiring salt, so that was the big push this year to order ahead,” he said.
Checking the equipment is also a big part of preparation for cities, including their materials.
“We literally have tons of salt and sand on hand, including some that is already pre-mixed,” said Kristin Banfield, communications manager for the city of Arlington.
The plow trucks also need to be ready when the time comes.
“We make sure that all of our trucks are ready to go,” said Banfield.
City staff make sure to equip their plow gear, as some of their trucks are multi-purpose and need to be re-fitted for snow plowing.
When snow and ice are about to occur, cities also take precautions to help keep the roadways safe.
Marysville applies a liquid de-icer made of calcium chloride.
“That is applied before freezing to prevent the ice and snow from bonding to the road,” said Perrault.
Once snow is on the road the cities begin plowing and will focus on the main roads and arterials first.
“We start with our arterials and main roads, and then move into some of the residential roads,” said Banfield.
If it is continuously snowing the plows may have to return to the arterials for another round before they get to the residential roads, she said.
Map routes are decided on by city officials.
“Those decisions are made by the public works director, the mayor and the City Council,” said Perrault.
Marysville routes have been used for about a decade now, although they make small changes from year to year.
This year a couple more residential routes have been added.
“We have people with health problems in those areas and we need to be sure our emergency vehicles can reach there,” said Perrault.
Emergency vehicle response is also a priority for Arlington.
“Really, what we focus on is making sure the arterials are clear first, that people can get to and from the hospital,” said Banfield.
The biggest safety tip for dealing with the snow is to stay home if possible, said Banfield.
So that individuals don’t have to shovel their driveway twice, they should shovel an area to the left of their driveway for snowplows, said Banfield.
“That was the biggest complaint we got last year when we got three feet of snow,” she said.
It also helps snow plows if cars are not parked on the streets.
“If people can avoid parking on the side of the street, which we know is not always possible, that helps us clear the road faster,” said Banfield.
Vehicles should give plow trucks a lot of room.
“One primary thing is to stay back some distance, at least 100 feat, from our plow trucks,” said Perrault.
The sand put down is small but can still cause damage, and the salt dropped is also corrosive and damaging to vehicles.
Perrault also recommends to never pass a plow truck on the right.
“Sometimes we’re plowing a multi-lane road and the car behind will not want to wait, causing them to try and pass on the right and they get their window covered in snow,” he said. This has caused accidents in the past.
“Give our plow trucks plenty of room to work on the road,” said Banfield.