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When the snow flies, track the plow in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 28, 2020

 An image of stclairshores.plowtracker.com from Jan. 20 is pictured, less than 24 hours after plows moved through St. Clair Shores.

An image of stclairshores.plowtracker.com from Jan. 20 is pictured, less than 24 hours after plows moved through St. Clair Shores.

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — As the snow piles up and a snow emergency is declared, residents may wonder — where is the plow?

Now, there’s a way to check: stclair shores.plowtracker.com.

Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock said Jan. 20 that when the City Council approved the purchase of automated vehicle locating devices in all of the city’s plow trucks in 2019, it made it possible for the department to track the trucks, when they are plowing and how much salt they are throwing. It also made it possible for residents to check on the plows as well.

“It took us about a year to get these all installed and calibrated and working,” Babcock said.

But now during a snow emergency, residents can check stclairshores.plowtracker.com to see where the plows are located and what streets have already been cleared. Streets that have been completed are shaded in blue during the snow emergency. The data is only available for the public to use for 24 hours, however, as plowtracker.com only has a day’s worth of storage available.

At the offices of the Department of Public Works, Babcock said that they can store all of that information for future consultation — it is only the public site that is available just for 24 hours.

Councilman John Caron said that during the Jan. 18-19 snow emergency, the tracking website was helpful to know when residents would be able to park in the street again.

He said he saw a neighbor putting his vehicle back in the street on Sunday night, but noticed on the website that the plows were just on the next street, so he told his neighbor to pull his vehicle back in the driveway.

While the website can only hold 24 hours worth of information, “sometimes we can’t get all the streets done in 24 hours,” Babcock conceded, adding that St. Clair Shores has 200 miles of roads to get through. Next year, he anticipates the data storage window being extended to 36 hours, but he agreed that it shouldn’t be a problem to take a screenshot of the progress every 12 hours to post for residents.

Although a snow emergency was declared before a single flake fell on the city Jan. 18, Babcock said a “very unique situation” meant that it took much longer to plow residential streets than usual.

“We had waves from Lake St. Clair crashing over in between homes, icing Jefferson,” he said. Because of that, the avenue had to be shut down between Martin Road and 12 Mile Road. At the same time, there was a water main break that had to be repaired so that it would not cause damage to homes.

“We’ve never had to deal with flooding from the lake while we’re plowing snow,” he said. “We had to address all of those things before we could address the snow, and that’s why we didn’t get to it until Sunday.”

Councilman Peter Rubino said that the city should have let residents know that was the case during the snow emergency, however.

Communication is “what we need to work on a little bit,” he said Jan. 20. “That we’re not just dealing with snow plowing right now; we have other issues we have to take care of.”

St. Clair Shores police issued about 255 violations for vehicles parked on the street during the snow emergency, said Councilman Chris Vitale. Having the vehicles parked on the street just slows down the entire process, he said.

“If you don’t know to get your car off the street in conditions we need to plow, you’re going to get a ticket,” he said.

A link to the plow tracking website will also be posted at the bottom of the city’s website, scsmi.net.

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