A new material storage building at the Department of Public Works is filled with salt for the upcoming winter.

A new material storage building at the Department of Public Works is filled with salt for the upcoming winter.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

St. Clair Shores is ready for snow

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 17, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The Department of Public Works is stocked and ready for when the snow flies this winter.

“We did get a new material storage building,” said Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock. “We’ve got 2,000 tons of salt stored and ready for winter.”

Before the city erected the new building, the department could only store about 400-500 tons of salt at a time and, sometimes, was filling trucks as the salt was delivered. With the capacity of the new shed, making sure enough salt is on hand to clear the roads whenever necessary won’t be a problem.

“It was always a struggle to keep enough salt on hand,” Babcock said. “This way, we have a backup of salt in case we do get the big back-to-back storms. We’re better prepared for that.”

Drivers are ready to hit the road and new drivers have been trained, he said, but it happened differently in 2020 than in the past.

“We had some new plow drivers this year. Typically, we put an experienced driver and a new driver in the truck and send them out there together and train, but this year we couldn’t do that,” he said.

Safety protocols for COVID-19 prohibit more than one driver in a truck at a time. Instead, the department set up a road course in a parking lot, simulating parked cars in the road, curves and how to properly salt.

The department also typically sends all drivers to a regional training session with plow drivers from across the area.

“We did a remote thing. We did do the training, but we did it online,” he said. “Now we’ve basically got drivers assigned to their own trucks and they have to sanitize it before and after.

“The guys are trained and they’re ready for winter.”

Trucks have already hit the streets to salt a few times.

“They’ve done a nice job. So far, so good,” he said.

Residents can track the progress of the plows during a snow emergency using an online system first implemented in 2019. When a snow emergency is declared and the department will be plowing residential streets, the progress of the plows will be tracked at stclairshores.plowtracker.com.

During a snow emergency, residents must remove vehicles parked in the roadway until the road is cleared.

“Snow emergency overrides parking permits in streets,” Babcock said. “It’s really important that we get all the cars off the road so we can do a nice clean job of plowing the streets.”

Having to plow around parked vehicles impedes or can even halt the progress of the plows.

“When you have parked cars, we have to not only slow down, but sometimes we have to stop and knock on a door. It’s a nightmare and it really slows down the progress,” he said.

He also cautioned drivers to give plows plenty of room.

“Don’t try to pass a plow truck. It’s dangerous. We have a wing plow that sticks out quite a bit,” he said. “Just stay back and give them room to do their job.”