If Mother Nature hits, St. Clair Shores is ready

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 19, 2012

The city’s 11 plow trucks are ready for whatever winter dishes out this year.

According to Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock, all of the trucks have been inspected and repaired so they are ready whenever the snow flies.

“This time of year, we did go through and we run through all the parts,” he said. “A lot of our trucks are from the ’90s, so they’ve taken a good beating.”

One truck is even already loaded up with salt, he said, to be ready, in case of water main breaks in freezing temperatures. The other ones, he said, “are ready right now, in case we get our first storm.”

“As soon as the temperature drops and there’s precipitation, we go around salting the entire city,” Babcock explained.

The 27 miles of main roads are tackled first, and if the snow gets heavy enough, those are also the first roads to see a plow.

“We have enough roads that we, unfortunately ... can’t wait until the next day,” he said. “We have to try to get ahead of the storm and get the salt down, and then start the plowing. They’ll work around the clock.”

Next in the priority list for DPW are the 40 miles of school and fire routes — prescribed routes for fire trucks to follow in inclement weather that should be the safest to any area of the city.

Then, he said, “if there’s enough snow accumulating, the mayor … may call a snow emergency.”

At that time, no parking is allowed on any residential street, so the trucks can begin to get through and plow the entire city, including 120 miles of side streets.

“We try to call a snow emergency 12 hours before we anticipate being able to plow the streets,” Babcock said. “It gives people time to get their cars off the roads.”

Tickets may not be issued, per city ordinance, for vehicles in violation of the snow emergency until 12 hours have passed.

“We want all the vehicles off the road so the snow can be removed from the streets,” said code enforcement supervisor Lionel Gale.

He said the Police Department handles any tickets for those in violation of the ordinance.

And Mayor Kip Walby said, although he didn’t have to declare one in his first year as mayor, “in the past, we have usually declared them in the 6-inch range to make the streets passable for people to get through.”

Depending on the severity of a storm, Babcock said it could take a day or two for the city to be able to clear all the streets, including side streets. The good news is St. Clair Shores has already prepaid for 1,500 tons of salt that it didn’t have to use during last year’s mild winter, when no side streets ever even saw a plow.

Babcock said the winter of 2011-12 only required the city to use about 1,000 tons of salt, compared with the 3,000 tons it used during the 2010-11 winter season.

He said the city has 300 tons of salt stored in its dome, and the contractor will deliver the rest as needed throughout the season.

“It helps our budget,” he said of the savings from last year. “We should have a good jump on this winter.”

Anytime it snows more than 2 inches, however, Babcock said residents also should remember to clear their sidewalks or walkways within 48 hours.

The full ordinances can be found in the Ordinances section of the Information tab of the city’s website at www.scsmi.net.