August 1, 2014

Elyria
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City officials sick of weather as snow continues to pile up

Snow covers Lake Avenue, in Elyria on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Snow covers Lake Avenue, in Elyria on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Exhausted. Sore. Fed up. We are the weather-weary of Northeast Ohio.

The blast of snow overnight Tuesday into Wednesday that made travel a bear — if even possible — and forced most schools to close was the latest smack in what is turning out to be a long, frozen winter.

If it isn’t snow, it is cold. If it isn’t cold, it is ice. If it isn’t ice, it is freezing rain. We’ve covered all that and more this year — sometimes in a span of a few days if not a 24-hour period.

“I’m sick of this weather, just sick of it,” Elyria Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka declared Wednesday. “It’s just been relentless.”

Yes, the city has salt. A delivery of more than a dozen truckloads came into Elyria on Tuesday — just in time for the storm.

Every plow truck the city owns has been moving mountains of snow nearly around the clock. While overtime for the workers driving those trucks has yet to be calculated, Siwierka summed it up with one word: “Significant.”

A worker at Midway Market Square works to clear the many tons of snow out of the parking area at the West River Road shopping center.  BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

A worker at Midway Market Square works to clear the many tons of snow out of the parking area at the West River Road shopping center. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

That scenario is repeated through every city and township across the county.

“It wears on them, but they’re doing the best they can,” said Carlisle Township Trustee Berry Taylor of the plow crews tasked with finding a place for all the snow.

Crews in North Ridgeville plowing residential streets — many with cul-de-sacs –— were faced with too much snow and too little space.

“We’ve got so much snow in cul-de-sacs that we run out of places to put it,” North Ridgeville Mayor Dave Gillock said.

By late afternoon Tuesday, Al Swindig Jr., superintendent of the North Ridgeville Service Department, said the thrill of an Ohio winter was long gone.

“Florida is starting to look real good,” he jokingly said.

Clearing roads

Ominous warnings of a horrendous snowstorm meant most snow-removal crews hit the streets early.

Up to 22 city vehicles ranging from pickups to large dump trucks began to clear North Ridgeville’s main thoroughfares including Center Ridge Road, Avon Belden Road and state Route 10 starting about 6 p.m. Tuesday. They plowed late into Wednesday.

Oberlin plow drivers staggered their shifts to clear roads as efficiently as possible, said City Manager Eric Norenberg.

“I had the chance two or three winters ago to ride with our plow drivers. It’s a difficult job,” he said. “Most people don’t appreciate it.”

A City of Elyria snow plow clears Lake Avenue. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

A City of Elyria snow plow clears Lake Avenue. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Ed Moran, street foreman for Avon Lake, said the Street Department has worked hard this winter, but employees remain upbeat.

“As bad as it seems, it’s not back-to-back-to-back,” he said. “We’re able to get rested and get the salt built up.”

Taylor said his township has about 90 tons of salt left for the year and another 107 tons on order. So far this year, he estimated the township has used roughly 400 tons of salt on the roads.

He said he thinks with the order, it will be enough to get the township through the winter.

Deputy Lorain County Engineer Bob Klaiber said constant snowfalls are testing the bounds of long-held plowing strategies in the county.

Klaiber also said that because of blowing and drifting snow on windswept rural roads, the engineer’s office focuses on salting curves, intersections and hills rather than trying to put down salt on the entire 269 road miles its plows have to keep clear.

The problem with the more open areas, he said, is that while a storm rages, salt often is either blown off the road or plowed to the side. Once the snow tapers, Klaiber said, more salt is used.

Many communities are cautiously conserving their salt supplies.

To conserve as much of North Ridgeville’s remaining stockpile of nearly 1,000 tons of rock salt as possible, a pair of trucks was salting only ramps and bridges along state Route 10, Swindig said. Elsewhere, salting was largely confined to major intersections and curving stretches of main roads.

Once the snow stops, Service Department crews will begin to lightly salt many streets, Swindig said.

“It’s no use throwing a lot of salt down and then have plows come along and shove it off (roads) into a ditch,” said David Gillock, North Ridgeville’s mayor.

Gillock said he learned Tuesday afternoon during a conference call with Ohio Department of Transportation officials that ODOT is planning to seek bids for an additional 150,000 tons of road salt for heavily-populated areas including Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati.

“Even if ODOT bids next week for another 150,000 tons, it will be at least a month before we have deliveries by the time contracts are signed,” Gillock said. “We’re talking March by then. We might not need it by then. There’s no quick fix to this.”

Overtime

City and county road crews have worked long, often grueling shifts, to clear roads during this year’s harsh winter.

Norenberg said Oberlin’s Street Department accrued nearly 188 hours of overtime in January, costing the city $5,577.66. The Parks and Building and Grounds departments, which have the task of shoveling sidewalks and clearing pathways, worked an extra 59 hours last month, leading to $1,997.59 in overtime pay.

Norenberg said the storm Tuesday and Wednesday likely led to more overtime, but those hours weren’t tabulated yet.

“We are managing our hours as best we can, because certainly the snow started earlier than expected (Tuesday),” he said.

County Engineer Klaiber said he couldn’t provide a specific total for overtime caused by the above-average snowfall this season.

“It’s higher than last year, but still not too bad because most events have been during the week,” he said.

Carlisle Township’s Taylor said he tries to keep overtime costs down by scheduling road workers in staggered shifts.

The season also straddles two budget years, which helps, North Ridgeville’s Gillock said.

“When you divide the impact between two years, it doesn’t look as bad, but it’s still going to be a hit on our budget,” he said. “When you look at it from a seasonal basis, it’s pretty tough because we’ve had storms on weekends and holidays.”

Moran, the street foreman for Avon Lake, said since December, his department has accrued more overtime than all of last year. He estimated that the city has spent $40,000 in overtime due to the storms.

He recommended that residents keep snow from the streets when clearing their driveways to help make the job easier for snowplow drivers.

“It can be frustrating,” he said, adding that there is a city ordinance against pushing snow into the street.

Taylor said another cost of winter is the toll plowing roads takes on the township’s equipment. He said so far this year, one township plow had hydraulic problems while another had a cracked radiator.

Not everyone is looking at the winter with a grim eye, however.

The Rev. Charlie Diedrick of St. Mary Church, the site of a warming center for the homeless in Elyria when temperatures dropped dangerously low, said residents have stepped up to help others.

“It’s an old-fashioned winter with the snow and the cold, but the goodwill of it all has been amazing,” he said. “Just the generosity of the people from parishioners to city officials was there when we needed it most. If we can start emphasizing those things, it would a lot warmer in the city even in this cold.”

Six inches fall this time

As of late afternoon Wednesday, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport had received a seasonal total of 54.1 inches of snow this winter — 14 more inches than the seasonal average, said Brian Mitchell, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Mitchell said officials recorded six inches of snow in North Ridgeville beginning Tuesday night.

He said the Cleveland area may see more snow Saturday, but no major storm systems are on the radar.

Staff writers Lisa Roberson, Brad Dicken, Chelsea Miller and Steve Fogarty contributed to this report.

  • Tom

    I wasn’t able to go to work yesterday because my road wasn’t even touched all day. It was finally plowed this morning at 5:30 am. Luckily, I have personal time at work but I’m sure some of my neighbors don’t…

  • Phil Blank

    Tell us what that big round donut looking this is on the top of the car in the first photo?
    And isn’t it illegal to drive an unlicensed, uninsured motorized vehicle on public roads? IE: home owner’s snowplow or tractor?

    • Elyria res

      It’s on Lake Rd so it looks like the Fenik Millstone.

    • Bill

      It wasn’t on top of the car Phil. It is in a yard on Lake Ave and it says Fenik on it. Name of the family that lives there.

  • Sue Biddle

    The roads in Elyria & North Ridgeville are FULL of potholes, so be careful when you’re driving. The road crews will have alot of patching to do come spring!