Eagle digs out after massive snow storms during January
Town of Eagle crews expect that snow piles remaining from last week’s massive storm will take more than three weeks to remove.
An estimated 26 inches of snow fell on the town during the storm.
For snow sport enthusiasts, it was an epic boon. For public works crews and companies with snow removal contracts all over the valley, it means dealing with heavy snow and the ice underneath it.
“Some streets have become so narrow that the only way to clear from curb-to-curb is to load it up and haul it off,” said Public Works Director Dusty Walls, “There aren’t many places remaining to push the snow.”
Over the course of plowing roads during the storm, most of the locations where town crews historically make winter-long snow storage piles reached capacity overnight.
“We have no place to put snow from the next storm if we don’t start hauling,” said Walls.
When it snows, Eagle town crews first clear main arterials and connecter roads before circling back to clear neighborhood streets and cul-de-sacs. Some of those neighborhood streets with on-street parking became nearly impassible.
In response to the logistical challenges presented by the huge storm, Eagle made an emergency allocation of $30,000 of contingency money to hire private haulers and additional heavy equipment. Public Works crews have cleared piles from snow storage locations in the downtown area, especially locations where piles created visibility hazards to motorists at intersections and at other high traffic areas.
From there crews moved to the neighborhood center area of Eagle Ranch.
Last week the town hosted a meeting with the many contract vendors who clear snow for various entities to lay out a two-week coordinated plan for removing snow. There were more than 15 contractors and property managers in attendance to discuss coordination.
As a matter of town code, shoveling sidewalks is the responsibility of the abutting private landowner or tenant. In some cases a neighborhood association, HOA or metro district fulfills this obligation. Town code requires sidewalks to be shoveled within 24 hours of the end of a storm event.
“We get a lot of calls about town plows pushing snow back onto private driveways,“ said Eagle Town Manager, Jon Stavney. “Our crew of ten public works drivers maintain 76 lane miles of road within the town. Their job is to make sure the public right-of-way is clear and safe. The town just doesn’t have the resources to clear many hundreds of driveway entrances after plowing the street. We need the help of private citizens to clear their own driveways and sidewalks, and also to adopt (shovel) a fire hydrant if they have one in front of their place.”
As discussed with the Eagle Ranch subcontractors, the priority locations for the current haul operation are similar to the priorities for most plow crews during and after a snow event. Along many town roadways there is a clear area beyond the shoulder that is used for snow storage.
Clearning snow from town streets presents many challenges. On Interstate 70, crews can push the snow off the driving lanes, then clear the shoulders and then later come and push the snow further out to the right-of-way where it can melt safely and drain away. This also leaves room for the next major snow. Things are a bit more complicated within town where crews follow the same pattern where there are adequate storage areas, such as along much of Eagle Ranch Road and parts of Sylvan Lake Road. This also works in old town where many of the wide rights-of-way allow for ample storage for plowed snow in the winter without constricting traffic.
Many neighborhood streets are designed with snow storage in mind.
“This is why we like to design a street with a landscape strip between the curb and sidewalk,” says Town Engineer Tom Gosiorowski. In some neighborhoods, such as The Terrace, the snow storage issue is taken care of with large front yard setbacks and no on-street parking.
“The problems come in denser neighborhoods where that strip of green between the curb and the sidewalk is narrow and the street is wide,” said Gosiorowski. “The problem is compounded where we have on-street parking because the street is that much wider requiring that much more snow to be stored in the small landscape strip. In these areas we have to haul away snow and this increases both the cost and the time necessary to clean up after a big storm.”
Walls expects his crews will be clearing snow and hauling it off from Eagle Ranch for the next three weeks, interrupted only by reverting to plow operations for any new snow.
“For those of you inconvenienced by this extreme mountain winter weather, the town respectfully asks your assistance and your patience. Even though you may be getting in the Olympic spirit, we kindly ask residents not to throw flowers in front of the plow trucks.”
For an update on daily operations please contact the public works office at 970-328-6678.