Across Durango and La Plata County, crews plan to give snowpacked roads more attention in the coming days, after working around the clock during the recent storm to keep them passable.
Since winter storms started last week, 13 Durango workers have used 265 tons of sand – or about half of what they keep on hand – during their 12-hour shifts to keep the roads open. La Plata County crews likely laid down between 500 and 750 tons of sand, said Doyle Villers, road maintenance superintendent.
In town, crews likely have seven to 10 more days of work ahead before the city’s snow and ice is cleared, said Streets Superintendent Mike Somsen.
Most of the snow fell during the day, when traffic packed it down, and that has been one of the biggest challenges, he said.
When snow falls at night, the crews can get the snow peeled off before it gets packed.
While it will take time to clean the whole town because of the cold temperatures forecast, the crews hope to have downtown cleared of mounds of snow by Tuesday.
During nights when crews are hauling snow away, it can cost the city $5,000 to $8,000, including city labor and a contractor to help, said Levi Lloyd, director of city operations.
Crews haul snow to Cundiff Park, but city staff members are working on a different site the city could use next winter, Lloyd said.
“We are working with a landowner to lease a new site up off the river,” he said.
Cundiff received 200 loads of snow Sunday night as crews readied downtown for weekday traffic, said Sherri Dugdale, assistant to the city manager.
But to get work done, 11 cars were towed to clear the streets. During the first major snowstorm, the city towed between six and eight cars, Lloyd said.
As the winter wears on, residents must remember to move vehicles off city street before 2 a.m. to avoid being towed.
“I think people get lax during the year, but it really is important, especially now,” Dugdale said.
In the county, crews face similar problems because some people couldn’t get into their driveway or didn’t shovel their driveway and parked in the road, Villers said. This forces the snowplow to drive around the car and creates a safety hazard.
This was a problem throughout the storm, when 29 drivers were working all day in 12-hour shifts, he said.
One of the toughest points of the storm for county crews was Christmas morning, when two plows drove off the road during whiteout conditions.
The county directs drivers to pull over during a whiteout, and the two driver’s were trying to find a safe place to do so when they got too close to the edge of the road. Pulling the plows out of the ditch delayed snow removal, but both drivers were safe, Villers said.
“When you’re driving in a blinding storm, everybody goes off the road at one point or another,” said plow operator Larry Olguin.