As winter officially begins, cities and counties are gearing up for snow.
Hermiston’s snow removal strategy is broken up into three phases covering 180 lane miles, according to information from the city’s street department.
During phase one, crews clear and maintain main thoroughfares through the city such as Highway 395 and Highway 207. During phase two they prioritize hills, downtown commercial streets, municipal buildings and the airport, in addition to clearing public parking lots late at night or early in the morning when there are few cars parked there. During phase three equipment is sent out to various residential neighborhoods and rotates through the streets in a counterclockwise direction, taking a break to re-clear main thoroughfares if needed.
“It is usually possible to plow all the streets utilizing the city’s limited staff and equipment within a couple of days,” the city’s snow-removal plan states. “If we get hit with a second storm and have to return to phase one streets, phase three operation stops until we get caught up again. We do try to pick up where we left off.”
It is against Hermiston’s city ordinance to pile snow removed from sidewalks and driveways onto the street, and the city asks that people pile the snow on their lawns instead.
“Throwing the snow from your driveway or sidewalk into the street creates a situation where when our plowing operation comes by we plow it back into your driveway area creating a larger amount for you to clear again out of your driveway,” the city wrote.
It can also obstruct lines of sight for drivers, and block drain inlets and gutters where melted snow is meant to drain. Parking in driveways or parking lots instead of the street during a snowstorm is also appreciated, as it makes it easier for plows to navigate.
Umatilla County Public Works Department is paying $8,500 for a 30-year-old snow plow from the state of Oregon surplus vehicle pool. The county board of commissioners approved the purchase Wednesday.
The four-wheel drive truck weighs about 50,000 pounds and has a sander, an 11-foot plow on the front and a wing plow. The county has one of these plows already, and it allows a driver to clear a road in one pass.
The Oregon Department of Transportation has new equipment and tools to take on the winter, including using salt in Eastern Oregon.
ODOT in a written statement reported it has five new plows that tow special trailers to help clear two full lanes of road at the same time.
Crews will run the new trucks on about 200 miles of Interstate 84 between Boardman and the Idaho border, on Interstate 82 south of Umatilla and on some secondary highway sections.
The special trailer has a 26-foot retractable plow blade and turning wheels, according to ODOT, that can swing the unit into the travel lane on the right side of the truck. That blade, plus the 12-foot-wide blade on the front of the plow, means the tow plow can do the work of two regular plows.
The tow plows also have hoppers that can disperse salt or sanding rock.
Craig Romine, ODOT’s Meacham coordinator, said in a written statement the new plows “will free up our rigs to assist others in Pendleton and La Grande, or to put more focus on old Highway 30 with the bus routes.”
The transportation department also boosted the number of its dual-wing plows from one to six for use along Eastern Oregon multi-lane freeways. Those vehicles can clear two freeway lanes in one pass and move snow off to the left side of the roadway.
The dual-wing plows are ideal for freeways that have median space and no center concrete barrier, according to ODOT, as well as areas with high winds and drifting snow, such as Ladd Canyon east of La Grande.
The department also reported expanding its rock salt pilot project.
The state approved using the salt for sections of I-84 between the Idaho border and Boardman, I-82, plus other Eastern Oregon routes, as well as expanding its use on about 100 miles of I-5 from the Siskiyou Pass to just north of Canyonville. The state also might use rock salt in other areas that have severe weather conditions.
ODOT advised motorists to drive according to the conditions and stay several car lengths behind winter maintenance vehicles. The road in front of the plow is going to be in worse condition, so wait until the plow pulls over to pass. And plows can have blades on the right and left sides of the truck, so drivers should use caution when passing a plow and never pass on the right.
ODOT also recommends washing vehicles after driving on wintry roads to remove ice and possible deicer or salt residue.
For updated information on highway work and current travel information throughout Oregon, visit www.tripcheck.com or call the Oregon road report at 511 or 1-800-977-6368.
East Oregonian reporter Phil Wright contributed to this story.