First Snow Handled with Ease

First Snow Handled with Ease

While the winter wonderland provided an unexpected vacation for most area school children last week, Alexandria public school students missed only one day.

"When I saw how clear the roads were on Thursday night, I told my kids to do their homework and be prepared to go to school,” said parent Cindy Martin. “And I was right.”

The snow fell fast and furious from about 2 a.m. on Thursday until around 2 p.m. that same day. When it was over, there was five inches of snow.

“We had a lot of warning,” said Doug McCobb, the deputy director for operations with Alexandria’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. “We began gearing up about 24 hours before the snow began, scheduling our people for both day and night shifts, loading our trucks with chemicals and attaching our plows to the trucks.

"At around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, after rush hour was over, we put down a brine mixture of salt and water on bridges, hills and other areas where snow tends to become packed and icy, including our arterials. This mixture keeps the snow from bonding with the surface of the road and from getting packed down when cars travel over it.”

By 3 a.m. on Thursday, McCobb’s staff was plowing snow. “We say that we plow when there is three inches or more but really we begin plowing when there is about an inch,” McCobb said.

WHILE THE SNOW was falling, T & E S staff plowed and salted. They used between 300 and 400 pounds of salt for every mile of roadway. “Because this was strictly snow, we didn’t have to use any sand,” McCobb said. “This was good, because sand stays around after the snow is gone and clogs storm drains and sewers. With the brine mixture and the salt, we felt we had provided enough traction for vehicles so that we didn’t have to use any of the sand. If we had gotten an ice storm, we would have needed to use sand, perhaps.”

Richard Baier, director of T and E S said, “The staff did a remarkable job clearing the streets,” he said. “Ours was the only school district in the region that was able to open on Friday with relatively few problems.”

While Baier was happy about that, student Maria Romero was not. “We are the only kids who had to go to school,” she said. “I wanted to play in the snow some more.”