It's a Tough Job Plowing Out Peabody

Public Services director says crews put in long hours during brunt of storm and continue to clear sidewalks and areas in need of another pass, as well as sanding and salting as chilly weather returns again.

Peabody plow crews were out day and night in this last week's blizzard.
Peabody plow crews were out day and night in this last week's blizzard.
Plow crews put in long, arduous hours late last week as the winter nor'easter unexpectedly grew in intensity to blizzard conditions and dumped more than a foot of snow in Peabody and closer to 2 feet in other North Shore communities.

"We definitely got hit a lot harder than we first expected," said Peabody Public Services Director Bob Langley on Monday. "Our guys put in some long, long hours."

Langley said crews worked straight through Thursday and Friday to keep roads clear and were out again Saturday and Sunday to hit areas in need of attention as well as plow out city schools and sidewalks. The main focus there is walking routes to schools.

Schools were closed both Thursday and Friday and re-opened on Monday. In total, Peabody received about 15 inches, Langley said. Residents across the city reported seeing up to 2 feet of snow drift into their yards and driveways.

Langley said crews were also out Monday, laying down sand and salt and would likely be out periodically in the coming days as frosty weather returns.

While the quick thaw from -15 degrees (with the wind chill) to low 50s and rain melted much of the snow, Langley said, temperatures are expected to dip well below freezing again Monday night through Thursday.

Of course, another thaw is forecast for the weekend.

Langley did not have final numbers Monday afternoon on the expense of the storm cleanup, but said his snow and ice budget is considerably depleted now after this storm and the storm in mid-December.

The city has budgeted about $580,000 this fiscal year to pay private contractors, Langley said, adding that amount hasn't changed much in recent years.

The state allows cities and towns to deficit spend on snow and ice removal, however, and either roll the remaining expenses in next year's budget or utilize reserve funds.

Just like last year, there haven't been many problems with residents complying with the emergency snow ban, Langley said. There were only a handful of cars towed this time for impeding snow removal and which were also violating the parking ban. The ban was declared Wednesday night for 9 p.m. and lifted at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Overall, Langley said, his department only received a few complaints from residents and did its best to respond to those concerns. Langley said DPS will respond as best as crews are able in the thick of a storm, whether those calls come from residents, police, fire or other corners of the city.

The storm was also an obstacle to trash and recycling collections, which were also delayed due to New Year's, but JRM is now back on track this week, Langley said.

While residents may not have called up DPS to complain, dozens of irate residents did air their frustrations via Peabody Patch's Facebook page and comments section.

One of the common themes amongst the criticism is that plows aren't hitting the streets early enough in a storm.

Langley said the city's plow crews were on the roads before the storm, sanding and salting, and yes the blizzard conditions were unexpected, but ultimately it's a judgment call -- at times a tough one -- when to bring in the full complement of plow crews.

He said some snow has to accumulate first before plows are deployed -- the city has 30 vehicles and there are about 100 private contractors -- and getting the timing right is also important.

It's a delicate balance to keep the roads clear and safe but also so as not to "burn out" the crews prematurely in the middle of the storm, he said, also pointing out how fickle New England weather can be.

"For the most part, I think we did pretty well," he said. "Of course, there's always room for improvement."

One of the other oft-heard concerns now that the city's uses an emergency parking ban system rather than a winter-long ban, is that once the ban is lifted, many of the streets aren't cleared enough to accommodate traffic and parked cars.

Langley said the decision is made on a situational basis, depending on the severity of the storm, whether to allow residents to temporarily park in municipal lots or at schools as an alternative.
Jamie Harrop January 07, 2014 at 07:33 AM
I was one of those critical of the snow removal, or lack thereof, during the last storm. I wanted to commend the city on their salting/sanding efforts overnight to prevent icing on the streets. They did a great job and it was noticeable this morning.
Heather Robertson January 07, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Thank you for clearing the snow from the sidewalks around the Brown School. First snow storm the sidewalks were never cleared and it was dangerous walking the children in the streets around parked cars. But this storm the sidewalks were nice and clear. Thank you very much.


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