Road-clearing crews keeping up with weather

This week’s snowfall hasn’t overwhelmed crews removing snow from Tri-City streets, but cold temperatures and a bit of rain Saturday undermined preparations to keep roadways clear.

“If it was in the mid-20s or warmer, we’d be able to be breaking up what’s on the roads now a little easier with the chemicals we put down and get the roads clearer,” said Pete Rogalsky, public works director for Richland.

Crews in Richland and Pasco began putting de-icer -- designed to keep the snow from packing into ice when cars drive over it -- onto the streets ahead of the storm as early as Friday.

Pasco’s crews worked 12-hour shifts Saturday through Monday, laying down de-icer, plowing and sanding to help provide more traction. They planned to be back out at 3 a.m. today to check the roads and do more of the same if needed.

In Kennewick, snow and ice attack teams tried to strike first by spreading an ice-melter on streets Saturday before the snow fell. But Old Man Winter’s assault began with rain, which effectively disabled that strategy.

“The rain just washed it away,” said Pat Everham, field services supervisor for Kennewick’s public works department. “So we’ve had crews sanding because of the freezing temperatures.”

Sanding and laying out salt will continue today, but more snow is forecast Wednesday and Thursday. Kennewick crews will plow and sand arterials, main roads and known trouble spots such as steep streets in Panoramic Heights and the Garfield Avenue hill.

“I’ve got six plow trucks running, and crews coming on from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. We’re working real hard to stay ahead of this,” Everham said.

The cities’ crews generally remove snow from the wider, busier streets first, so commuters can get to work, parents can get children to school and emergency vehicles can respond to calls. Residential streets are the lowest priority.

“You may need to travel a block or two out of your usual travel pattern, but everyone can get to a connector or arterial street and onto the main highways to commute during this hazardous weather,” said Jess Greenough, field division manager for Pasco, in a news release.

Richland crews started working Monday on some streets that are rated second and third priority, but if predictions of more snow hold true, they’ll switch back to the top priority streets to clear them again later in the week, Rogalsky said.

Though the snow was enough to slow much of the Tri-City traffic, it didn’t overwhelm the street crews.

“The steeper roads are more slick, but it isn’t so much that it’s got us all paralyzed,” Rogalsky said.

* Joe Chapman: 582-1512; jchapman@tricityherald.com