Snow Removal Crews Weigh In On Clearing Roads Over the Weekend During Winter Storm

Published Monday, January 25, 2016 at 5:23 pm

By Jessica Isaacs | jessica@highcountrypress.com

Photos by Ken Ketchie

Snow removal in the High Country is an essential part of mountain living in the winter months, especially in storms like the one that stopped here over the weekend on its way up the East Coast.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in the High Country over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Some parts of the area got 18-20” or more, which made traveling in and to town nearly impossible at times. However, thanks to early forecasts, which gave folks time to plan on staying home, local crews were able to clear the roads for us with a lot of hard work and little distraction.

Up for the Challenge        

When a storm’s on its way and we hear the roads are getting slick, many of us head back home and hibernate until it’s safe to travel again. But who puts in all of that work to keep the roads clear, and how busy are they when we’re hiding out at home?

Keeping the roads and parking lots cleared is a tough task in the midst of a winter storm, and many of the guys who take it on are the same guys who maintain our properties in the summertime.

Buddy Oakes, owner of Maple Ridge Landscaping in Vilas, said snow removal is a smart way for businesses like his to keep their employees busy and their companies running during the winter months.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in Boone. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in Boone. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

“You already have the trucks and everything you need, except for the plows and the salt spreaders, and that’s just an investment you have to make,” Oakes said. “You can’t landscape in the wintertime, so you need to pay the bills. When you already have the equipment, the trucks and the men, you’re set up for it, so you can do this and still have money coming in.”

Over in Boone at New Horizons Hardscapes, co-owner and operator Michael Kirk agreed, noting that it’s also a great way to ensure his clients are cared for year-round.

“Snow removal is a value-added service and, with the amount of commercial and rental properties there are in the area, landscaping companies like us try to service all of the needs for an individual property or customer,” said Kirk. “It has also become a standard now that, if you offer seasonal lawn maintenance and typical seasonal landscaping functions, you’re also capable of adding snow removal and winter management.”

While most of us were at home this weekend waiting for the storm to pass, the crews at Maple Ridge and New Horizons were just a few of the many who ventured out to work on the roads.

Snow Removal

Meteorologists were confidently predicting as early as Wednesday that inclement weather would make it to the Boone area by Friday, and it seems as though most of the community had enough time to prepare for the storm.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in the High Country over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in the High Country over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

“The biggest thing that stood out about this storm from others was the lack of general traffic on the roads. From a contractor’s clean-up standpoint, and from a traffic standpoint, it was an easier storm for us to deal with because everyone stayed at home,” Kirk said. “They got the memo that there was a big storm coming, and the state did what it needed to do, too. It was a big storm, but, overall, I think everybody did the right thing.”

Fewer people willing to take their chances on the snow-covered roads meant better access and a more efficient process for snow removers this go-round, but that doesn’t mean they had it easy.

“It depends on where you were in the county, but all of it was very snow covered. With the wind blowing, it just covered it back up,” Oakes said. “Some parts got 18-20” and some got maybe 9”, but they were still real treacherous.”

Not including the 2-4” we saw on Wednesday, three-day snowfall totals in most parts of the county ranged from 7-14” and reached up to 18-23” in places like Todd, Sugar Grove, Beech Mountain, Seven Devils and parts of Boone.

A crew of nine trucks and 14 men from Maple Ridge hit the streets midweek when the first flakes began to fall.

“We started doing some work on the 20th and have been working since, and have even been doing some salting this morning,” said Oakes on Monday. “Some of the guys worked for two days straight, probably putting in close to 42 hours just between Friday and Saturday.”

Kirk and his team of nine men, three trucks, three pieces of equipment and several shovel crews also worked the weekend away.

“I think most of my crew tried to get a little sleep at night, but we went two days just pretty well nonstop,” he said. “I think everybody got in at least a couple hours of sleep, but 20-hour days were about the norm.”

When heavy snow picked up on Friday, road conditions that were manageable earlier in the week soon turned dangerous. However, thanks to the caution exercised by folks who opted to stay at home and the time they had to prepare, Kirk and his team saw fewer wrecks and less chaos on the roads than they expected.

“Road conditions deteriorated very quickly. The state cleaned up the little prelude that we had on Wednesday, and we had a respite before the big storm hit,” said Kirk. “It wasn’t like in ’09 where it hit real hard initially. It kind of eased in this time, and I think everybody stayed up on things pretty well — I know my crews did. Nobody got stuck or had any of the real issues you’d expect from a storm that comes in really, really fast.”

The sun was shining by Sunday and, although it was still on the ground, most of the snow has been cleared from the roads. Gravel drives and backcountry roads may still be a little iffy, but the main arteries in town are today prime for travel and trips to restock our pantries.

“The majority of the roads are all in good shape,” Oakes said. “Now we’re concentrating on people who have called in and trying to get their driveways and parking lots cleared.”

Ray’s Weather says we may get a few flakes on Wednesday this week and we seem to be in the clear for the foreseeable future; but, the next time there’s a big snow on the way, rest assured that hardworking folks in your neighborhood are ready to tackle the roads for you.

 

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in the High Country over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in the High Country over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in the High Country over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Local snow removal crews work to clear the roads during a winter storm in the High Country over the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

 

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