A good job by public works

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, March 4, 2015

In a place like Southeastern Virginia, where winter weather can mean anything from sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s to blustery below-zero wind chill, planning for snow removal is no easy task.

Most folks around here would not trade the often-mild winter days for the very best in snow management, and municipal governments can hardly afford to pay for fleets of top-of-the-line snowplows and people with the experience to operate them.

But people need to be able to get to work and school safely. In order for them to do that, at least the primary and secondary roads must be reasonably clear. Cities in Hampton Roads have mixed success each winter in accomplishing that task, and Western Tidewater’s two most recent snowstorms point out the challenges they face.

The most recent bouts of mid-February storms brought a measure of ice and snow, along with bitterly cold temperatures that made the brine mixture favored by VDOT less effective at keeping roads clear. The results were roads that continued to be a problem days after the storm.

On the other hand, last week’s storm left more snow on the ground, but the most primary and secondary roads in Western Tidewater were remarkably clear within 24 hours of the snowfall ending.

As with the first storm, there were environmental factors at work in the second, this time aiding in the snow removal efforts. Warmer temperatures before and after the storm, for instance, made a big difference.

Western Tidewater is unlikely ever to be the kind of place where all the roads will be cleared within hours of a snowstorm. But it’s heartening to know the county and city public works department continue to work to improve its response. And it’s gratifying to know they’re on the job, ‘round the clock, before, during and after winter storms.