November snow brings early test for city maintenance crew
December 2, 2010
By Tim Pfarr
As snow and ice blanketed Newcastle just before Thanksgiving, city maintenance workers took to the streets in the city’s three trucks fitted with snowplows, clearing roads around the clock in accordance with the city’s snow priorities map.
However, before snow began falling, maintenance workers had already laid de-icer on the city’s major roadways.
“We were very prepared for what happened,” said Steve Roberge, interim public works director. “The way the event occurred caught everybody off guard.”
Roberge said the continually melting snow on roadways Nov. 22 diluted de-icer before freezing temperatures swept into the area, limiting the de-icer’s effectiveness.
As the storm hit the city full force that afternoon, maintenance workers took to snowplows to clear the streets. For about two days, the handful of maintenance workers alternated eight hours of work with eight hours of rest. Some lived close enough to go home for their eight-hour breaks, while others stayed with friends in the area or in nearby hotels.
The crew also worked most of Thanksgiving Day.
“They did what they had to to get it done,” Roberge said. “They did a fantastic job.”
One of the city’s trucks broke down during the Nov. 22 night shift due to an electrical malfunction. The truck was fixed, but it broke down again shortly after, and it is now pending further repair.
The snow and ice closed Issaquah and Renton schools Nov. 23 and 24, as well as City Hall on Nov. 23. City Hall was closed Nov. 24 for employees to take furlough.
The snow route map divides roads into four priority categories, with the highest priorities being Coal Creek Parkway, Newcastle Golf Club Road and Newcastle Way from Coal Creek Parkway to 116th Avenue Southeast.
City officials worked in conjunction with police, fire and medical aid crews in 2008 to establish route priorities and ensure emergency response vehicles can travel through the city.
High priority roads were cleared quickly, but other roads were left for residents to brave as best they could. One of the most difficult streets was the hilly 135th Avenue Southeast near Newcastle Elementary School, where numerous abandoned cars lined the street overnight Nov. 22. Southeast 79th Street and Southeast 79th Drive were also closed due to the hazardous conditions.
However, Newcastle Police did not impound any cars, and most who abandoned their cars in the city were allowed to do so Nov. 23, said Mayor John Dulcich, who drove the streets with City Manager Rob Wyman that day.