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Snow and Ice Clearing
The Clinton County Secondary Road Department has begun another winter season. The Department maintains approximately 220 miles of paved and 800 miles of gravel roads. Counties are responsible for almost four times more road miles than state, city and towns combined. The Clinton County Secondary Road Department takes the safety of the traveling public and road clearing responsibilities seriously. We realize that many rural residents work in nearby towns and lost time on the job is a financial hardship to the family and that livestock farmers must have access to care for their animals on a regular basis. Also, some county residents have special medical needs that require special access requirements.
The majority of snow clearing is done during the daylight hours. Crews will not be working between the hours of 6:00 pm and 5:00 am (working hours are set by County Ordinance) but crews may respond to emergency situations as requested by law enforcement or rescue units. The Clinton County Secondary Road Department does not have enough employees to be able to work in rotating shifts which allows 24-hour per day operation the way that state and many city crews function. Due to the large number of county road miles and the isolated nature of many roads, the safest and most efficient operation is during the day. The paved road system is normally plowed after snow has fallen and the wind is low enough so that drifting doesn’t undo what has been accomplished. The gravel road system is plowed to open one lane of traffic as soon as possible/practical after a snowstorm, which causes accumulation of at least 3-4 inches of snow.
The truck plows first assignment is to open the paved roadways and apply deicing materials and abrasives to the surface. Deicing materials are used to improve driving conditions and are typically effective when air temperatures are warmer than fifteen degrees. The material is typically not used on gravel roads since it would melt the road base and create a soft unstable road.
The first assignment for motor graders is to open the heavier traveled gravel roads and roads traveled by school buses. Their second priority is to provide access from at least one direction to all residences, followed by establishing two-way traffic on roads. Finally, the connecting gravel roads are cleared to provide more direct travel between destinations. Level B and C service roads and dirt roads continue to be the lowest priority and often are not cleared if there are no homes or livestock operations that require access.
Why is there snow and ice on the roads after they have been plowed?
The county’s Snow and Ice Removal Ordinance does not state that roads will be cleared to a bare pavement and/or 100% cleared condition. The pavement will most likely have snow and ice on the surface after plowing and salting operations. Intersections, curves and other specific areas may be treated with deicing materials more heavily or plowed more frequently but county ordinance, time and budget do not allow this level of service on all sections of road. Gravel roads are typically bladed to uncover rock in the center portion of the road only and not across the entire width of the road. This is done to keep as much rock on the road as possible after plowing operations. Snow will most likely be present on the edges of gravel roads after plowing operations.
Why does it take so long to clear gravel roads of snow and ice?
Restoring access on gravel roads is a slow process since the graders typically plow snow at an average speed of 6-8 mph and a typical route covers from sixty to seventy miles. That means it takes a minimum of ten continuous hours of operation to clear a grader district to one lane. Snowstorms and/or windy conditions may cause substantial drifting which further increases the time necessary to plow a single lane open on a road. After a storm, it may not be possible to reach the remote homes until the second or third day. Clinton County may use “spare” graders, end loaders and snow blowers during severe storms. Homeowners are encouraged to plan accordingly for the winter season.
Why do they keep plowing my driveway shut?
Unfortunately, this is due to the continuous operation of the plow. It’s necessary for the operator to push snow without stopping in order to complete the route in a timely manner. Currently fifteen trucks are used to plow over 400 lane miles of road, if drivers pause to clear each driveway it would significantly increase the amount of time to plow roads and the cost to clear roads.
The plow knocked down my mailbox. Will the County replace it?
Generally, the County will only replace mailboxes where it can be determined that the equipment made physical contact with the mailbox. During wet snows, the plowing operations will often cast snow across the shoulder, which can break the weaker box supports. Every mailbox should be inspected prior to winter and repaired if necessary.
I’ve seen plow trucks on the road that sometimes aren’t spreading salt. Why don’t they since they’re there anyway?
Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water. At critical low temperatures, applying salt to roads packed with snow or ice may create worse problems by causing the snow or ice to “glaze” or form a slick shiny surface. Also, during windy storms, snow will often blow off a bare road, whereas salted roads will sometimes cause the snow to begin to stick. Typically the County applies a mixture of salt, solid and liquid calcium chloride and sand.
Is there anything that I can do to help with snow and ice operations?
Yes, slow down and drive sensibly during winter weather conditions. Allowing a little more time to get to your destination and equipping your vehicle properly will allow you to travel safer during winter conditions. During severe storms, it’s helpful if people are patient and wait for the plow. Abandoned vehicles become a big problem during snow plowing operations. County operators try to go around those vehicles, but if that’s not possible, the vehicle will be moved to allow our equipment to get through. Also, county residents should not push snow into the roadway when they are clearing their driveways because it becomes a hazard to people traveling on the roadway.
How do we contact the Secondary Roads Department about snow and ice?
The Engineer’s Office phone number is 563-244-0564 and the regular fall and winter hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The DeWitt Maintenance Shop normal fall and winter hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and the phone number is 563-659-8230. If you have special needs and require a priority level of service please submit a written request to the Engineer’s Office. Following a snowstorm, the County will work overtime during the week and the weekend in accordance with the ordinance until access has been restored to homes and livestock.
The Clinton County Snow Ordinance is available to the public at the Secondary Roads Department offices or online. The Ordinance limits the County’s liability and also outlines the level of service that residents can expect during the winter season.