Two major snowstorms dumping 20-plus inches of snow within five days – that’s the mess that was handed to the Cass County Road and Bridge Department crew, along with other municipal street departments across our county recently.
“The first snow storm was barely cleaned up before we were hit with bigger challenges during the second storm,” R&B Director Terry Faulkenberry said.
In a mostly-rural county, residents, especially in the southern half of the area or outside the city limits, depend on county crews to plow a path through their streets after substantial snowstorms.
While it took a matter of several days, Cass County Road and Bridge employees worked around the clock trying to open 1,250 miles of county roadways during the region’s most recent winter blast that hit the area on Feb. 21 and Feb. 25-26.
Faulkenberry asks residents to be patient in times like these. He said the county’s eight road grader operators worked 16 hour shifts and plow truck operators split into 12 hour shifts running four heavy-duty plow trucks and two service plow trucks, while two mechanics kept the garage open 24 hours providing maintenance and mechanical repairs to county equipment.
“These past two storms were of a higher magnitude than we would typically deal with in a winter season, so needless to say we experienced extremely high volumes of calls and emails,” Faulkenberry said.
When snow accumulation occurs, the County Road and Bridge Department, along with municipal street departments, emergency snow routes become top priority.
Priority is also given to truck routes and chip-n-seal road surfaces, followed by gravel road surfaces, and then subdivisions.
“All other county roadways and residential areas were divided into four quadrants so we could have grader operators and plow trucks placed in each section of the county,” he said.
During the most recent storms, the R&B Department reported countless phone calls and emails from residents begging to know when their roads would be plowed.
“During a storm of this magnitude we could not give patrons a time frame of when their roads would be cleared; we just had to ask that everybody be patient and try to assure them we would get there as quickly as possible,” Faulkenberry said. “In order to assure that every taxpayer’s concern was addressed, the office administrator worked through the evening submitting a service request for every call or email received at our department while the Commissioner’s office was responding to the overflow of calls and emails coming into their office.”
The National Weather Service reported that between 20 and 25 inches fell throughout southern Cass County combined between both storms. The northern portion of the area reported totals of 1-2 inches more.
While very similar in meteorological structure, both storms presented unique challenges.
The first storm, which began in the early morning hours Feb. 21, created whiteout conditions and blanketed the ground with knee-deep snow, stranding motorists and paralyzing much of the region for about 24 hours.
The second snow storm was equally difficult, as well, Faulkenberry said.
“Road crews were experiencing a lot of power lines down, stranded vehicles, and drifting while the loss of electricity and phone service at the maintenance building provided obstacles that were likewise challenging to work around,” he said. “We just made the best of a bad situation to keep on course. The mechanics managed to maneuver in the dark and staff used their personal cell phones to network with other city municipalities, utility companies, and patrons to keep the line of communications open for the safety of our crews and community citizens.”