Greene County removes snow and ice on over 200 miles of paved roads and approximately 750 miles of gravel roads, which can be an overwhelming task during a snowstorm. To illustrate, if you would place all of Greene County’s roads end to end in a straight line, this would comparatively represent the distance it would take to drive from Jefferson to Washington D.C. On the average, each snow plow clears approximately 40 miles of roadway, which in a straight line would be equivalent to plowing snow to the West edge of Ames. In Iowa, the widespread rural system can strain local snow and ice budgets. Counties are responsible for almost four times the amount of road miles as compared to the collective state and city miles.
Most snow clearing is done during the daylight hours. However, crews may start before dawn or work after sunset following a snowstorm to get ahead of traffic and will respond to emergency situations. County crews do not work in shifts as may state and city crews. Given the size of the county rural system and the remote nature of many roads, the safest and most efficient operation is during the daylight hours. In certain hazardous or severe drifting conditions, snow removal operations may be limited or halted. Some residents could expect to be snowed in for the duration of the severe weather and for a reasonable amount of time afterwards depending on the severity of the storm.
Each storm has its own individual characteristics and must be handled accordingly. The expected duration of the storm and the range of temperatures expected are all considered in determining when and if the crews are sent out. The paved road system is initially plowed when snow begins to accumulate and the wind is low enough so that drifting does not counteract what has been plowed. The gravel road system is subsequently plowed when snow continues to accumulate and the wind is not a serious problem.
The first assignment for the truck plows is to open the paved roadways and apply salt and/or sand to the surface if appropriate. Salt continues to be the most economical material available to restore safe driving conditions and is particularly effective with air temperatures above twenty degrees. Salt is not used on gravel roads because it would melt the gravel base and create a swampy, slippery condition.
The first assignment for the motor graders is to open the heavier traveled gravel roads. The goal is to provide access from at least one direction to all residences, followed by creating two-way traffic on those roads. Then the remaining connecting gravel roads are cleared creating more direct travel between destinations.
During winter, motorists are reminded to reduce their speed according to road surface and visibility conditions. Rural residents should be prepared with adequate food and fuel supplies so that they may be able to remain in their homes during severe weather.
Why does it take so long to clear gravel roads?
Restoring access on gravel roads is a slow process since the motor graders are not built for speed and a typical route covers approximately 40 miles of road (or 80 2-lane miles) that need to be cleared. Windy conditions, creating drifting, only serve to slow the progress being made. Sometimes after a severe storm it is not possible to reach remote areas and homes in the County until another day. Continued windy conditions can result in a road blowing shut shortly after it is opened. Rural residents are encouraged to plan accordingly for the winter season. I saw the snowplow at the intersection and there is not as much snow on that road as mine, why haven’t they been past my place yet? Do you know when they will be by?
Snow plowing is done by following designated routes. This is to assure removal in a systematic and timely manner by operating the plows in a continuous course rather than jumping from one location to another. We can not calculate when they will get to a specific location because there is no way to predict what conditions may be encountered. I have a long driveway, will you plow it?
No, it is the responsibility of the resident to plow the snow or hire it done. Why do they keep plowing my driveway shut?
Unfortunately, this is due to the continuous operation of the plow. It is necessary for the operator to push snow without stopping in order to efficiently remove the snow and complete the route in a timely manner. If we pause to clear each driveway, both momentum and time are lost and the snow removal process would be lengthened considerably, and may not get completed before the next storm arrives. The plow knocked down my mailbox. Will the County replace it?
During wet snows, the plowing operations will often cast snow across the shoulder, which can break the weaker mailbox supports. The County will pay $10.00 toward repair of such damage when application is made at the County Engineer’s Office. I’ve seen plow trucks on the road that sometimes aren’t spreading salt. Why don’t they since they’re there anyway?
Salt does not melt ice, but it does lower the freezing temperature of water. This works down to a temperature of approximately 20 degrees. At critical temperatures, applying salt to roads packed with snow or ice may create worse problems by causing the snow or ice to "glaze" and form a slick shiny surface.
At times, during windy storms, snow will often blow off a dry, bare road, whereas if salt is present on the roadway, the snow may begin to stick and create a slick surface. We monitor the forecast and current temperatures to determine the most efficient use of our salt. Is there anything that I can do to help with snow and ice operations?
Yes. Hay bales, brush piles or other material stored along the north or west side of the road right-of-way will cause drifting across the roadway. If the bales were set back 300 feet, they would essentially act as a snow fence and actually help protect the road. Snow removed from private driveways should be placed in the ditch at or below the shoulder level. Such snow deposits if left on the shoulder, when frozen, can damage automobiles and snow removal equipment. They also cause increased drifting in a location where snow storage space may already be insufficient.
During severe storms, it is helpful if folks are patient and wait for the plow -- abandoned vehicles create problems. Snowplow operators try to go around these vehicles and are not allowed to hook onto or pull stranded vehicles. The County does not accept any liability for damages caused to vehicles left unattended within the roadway. Are there any guidelines for placing snow fence?
Yes. The I.D.O.T. offers answers to common snow fence questions at this link: http://www.dot.state.ia.us/maintenance/index.htm#fence How do we contact your Department?
Our office phone number is (515) 386-5650 with regular office hours of 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday, or you can reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
. As long as roadways are passable, the Secondary Road crew will work regular hours and not work on the weekends. Following a snowstorm, we will work overtime hours during the week and the weekend until access has been restored to homes and livestock.