By Whitney Vickers and Anna DeWine
FAIRBORN — The City of Fairborn Street and Sanitation Division had its work cut out for it Tuesday morning as enough snow had covered the ground to call the snow removal equipment into action.
“The street department thinks about snow 365 days a year,” Sean Sink, street and equipment maintenance superintendent, said.
Three brine units, eight plow trucks with salt capabilities and seven smaller trucks with plowing abilities had to clear more than 295 lane miles within the city, which are prioritized according to the volume of traffic, speed limit and nature of the road itself.
The Street and Sanitation Division works alongside the Fairborn Police and Fire Departments to identify the roadways that should be cleared first.
High-priority roads are those that include hills, bridges, sharp curves and inclines as well as a high speed limit and amount of traffic on a regular basis, such as Col. Glenn Highway and Dayton-Yellow Springs Road, as an accident on any of those roadways are more likely to result in an injury or fatality.
Second-priority roads include those that serve as major connectors to housing plats, while alleys, cul-de-sacs and roadways within plats are cleared last.
“Once we feel confident that the main roadways are in good, safe condition, we start to move back,” Sink said.
Sink said the job began early Tuesday morning with minor equipment issues, such as a worn windshield wiper motor, as the snow was falling the heaviest. However, by 8:30 a.m., snow removal efforts were in full-force. Three of the seven smaller trucks are included as part of the plant maintenance division, which initially worked to remove snow from city property. Upon the completion of that job, those three trucks went to work removing snow from roadways.
“Everything we own with a plow works,” Sink said.
Fairborn’s snow-removal efforts include a pre-treatment of brine, a combination of water and sodium chloride, to prevent ice from sticking to the roadway in the first place. Brine treatment begins when snow is forecasted, such as last weekend, unless the winter weather-conditions are predicted to first begin as rain before turning into snow or ice. Sink said if that is the case, the rain would wash the brine away from the roadway. Trucks plow away the snow and dust the road with salt. Fairborn is working with 2,400 tons of salt to get its citizens through the winter season without an incident.
“Our goal today (Tuesday) is to get all the roads cleared, even residential streets,” Sink said. “Our fear is the significant drop in temperature on Wednesday because it’ll get more costly to remove the snow. We want to remove the snow today (Tuesday) while the temperatures are up.”
Driving mindfully in snow conditions
It is important that a motorist drive with caution on slippery roadways, ensuring that plenty of stopping distance is available between their car and the vehicles ahead of them. Snow removal vehicles have blind spots, including directly behind, and occassionally need to put the vehicle into reverse in order to complete the job at hand. Motorists should operate with care near snow plows and trucks and especially keep their distance.
Sink advises commuters to be patient, maintain lower speeds — even if it is under the posted limit — and avoid distractions.
“Pay attention,” he said. “You never know when you may have to react to someone else’s mistake.”
Citizens should avoid parking vehicles on the streets if snowfall is predicted in the weather forecast. Snow plows and trucks removing flurries from the roadway may blow snow debris onto cars, creating a “plowed in” effect, which may put snow back into the roadways as citizens attempt to pull away from their snowy parking spot. Vehicles parked on the streets also create a narrower roadway, producing an obstacle as snow removal vehicles attempt to clear the way.
When citizens weather the cold temperatures to shovel out their driveway, Sink recommends piling it onto the right lower corner, as doing so will minimize the chance for plows to push snow back into driveways. The City of Fairborn also asks its citizens to keep hydrants clear of snow if one is on their property.
Sink highlighted that community members should be mindful that Wright State University is teaching students who may have never driven in Ohio’s typical winter weather conditions, and that some airmen serving Wright-Patterson Air Force Base may be experiencing their first winter in Ohio as well.
“If the conditions exceed your driving skills, don’t put it to the test,” Sink said. “Inexperience can be problematic.”
County-wide winter preparedness
Greene County Engineer Bob Geyer said he is approaching this winter the same way he has approached every winter.
“We make sure the hoppers work, the plows are okay, then we wait for the snow and get out there,” he said.
The “wait and see” approach allows the county engineer to keep enough salt in the county’s barns for a short-term range, and then order more when the weather dictates it’s necessary, Geyer explained in a previous interview. This approach helps keep costs down.
“I keep my barn half-full,” Geyer reported.
Ready for the snow are the county’s twelve trucks, 1,500-3,000 tons of road salt, and 15,000-30,000 gallons of Beet Heet. Beet Heet is a natural product used to wet the salt to make it work more effectively.
The county typically buys salt in 1,000-ton increments and Beet Heet in 10,000-gallon increments, keeping 1,500 tons of salt and 15,000 gallons of Beet Heet on hand. It takes about 100 tons of salt to cover county roads in one pass-through.
When it’s snowing, Geyer has one piece of advice for citizens: slow down.
“A few people didn’t do that this morning (Tuesday),” he said.