Snow & Ice Removal

The Department maintains 200 miles of paved and 850 miles of gravel roads which can be a daunting task during a snowstorm. Statewide, the extensive rural system can strain local snow and ice budgets - counties are responsible for almost four times the road miles of state, city and town agencies combined. County Engineer Rafe Koopman stated that "We take our 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. Likewise, we realize that livestock farmers must have access to care for their animals on a regular basis. These folks pay our wages, and we want to provide them responsive, efficient service."

Procedures


Most snow clearing is done during the daylight hours. However, crews will start before dawn following a snowstorm to get ahead of traffic and will respond to emergency situations as requested by law enforcement or rescue units. County crews don't work in rotating shifts the way that state and many city crews function. Engineer Koopman explained that given the size of the rural system and the isolated nature of many roads, the safest and most efficient operation is during the day.

Since each storm is unique we cannot always use the same approach to clear the roads. In general we begin plowing our paved roads and will make several passes as needed throughout the storm to keep the roads clear. On our gravel roads we prefer to plow the road one time so we try to wait until the storm has passed before we begin. Obviously this approach does not work all the time.

Class B roads are our least priority and may not get cleared at all.

Equipment


The truck plows assignment is to open the paved roadways and apply salt and sand to the surface. Salt continues to be the most economical material available to restore safe driving conditions and is particularly effective with air temperatures warmer than fifteen degrees. The material is never used on a gravel road since it would melt the base and create a swamp.

Our motor graders are responsible for clearing our gravel roads. Their first responsibility is to open the roads. Given the configuration of their area and the amount of miles they have to cover, some roads may only get plowed one way at first with the remaining snow cleared during normal working hours. The trucks can help plow the gravel roads but it only works when the surface is frozen hard.