Winter's last March blast

A scene from the early hours of North Platte's surprise late March snowstorm Friday.

Last week’s light dustings of snow in North Platte amounted to a preseason drill for city crews in advance of Winter Weather Awareness Week, which ends Saturday.

Whenever the first substantial snow strikes, city officials said, residents need to remember the importance of keeping designated snow routes free of parked vehicles.

Public Service Director Layne Groseth said the city’s main fleet of 12 to 14 snowplows and maintainers is ready to go, as are the smaller machines Parks Department crews use at city parks and parking lots.

They got a partial workout Oct. 28-30, he said, when North Platte’s first measurable daily snowfalls of the 2019-20 season amounted to 0.4, 0.2 and 0.5 inches respectively.

“We did put the salt on the bridges and viaducts that (first) day, but that was really it,” Groseth said.

North Platte motorists won’t have to worry about the first big snow striking today or Saturday. A brief two-day return of Indian summer beckons, with sunny skies and highs in the mid-60s today and lower 70s Saturday.

But snow will be more likely than not Sunday night and early on Veterans Day, when temperatures will struggle to reach the mid-20s, according to the National Weather Service office at the North Platte Regional Airport.

If city plows start running, residents should be ready to move their cars off city streets and especially snow routes, said North Platte Police Officer Beth Kerr.

Police will alert the local press when a “snow alert” or “snow emergency” is declared, said Kerr, the department’s spokeswoman. Residents also can sign up for automatic notifications at smart911.com.

Kerr said police issued 367 tickets last winter for vehicles parked on designated snow routes after snow emergencies were declared. Each ticket carries a $35 fine, but vehicles not moved after they’re ticketed will be towed.

To give motorists time to prepare, “we often declare (snow) alerts the night before a storm,” Kerr said.

City crews start laying down salt or sand on bridges, overpasses and intersections with traffic signals once snow or freezing rain starts falling, according to the city’s formal snow removal policy.

If 3 to 4 inches or more of snow is expected, snowplows will go to work when “there’s 2½ to 3 inches on the road,” Groseth said.

His crews typically focus first on U.S. Highways 83 and 30, he said, followed by streets serving fire stations, Great Plains Health and North Platte’s nursing homes. Plowing of the other snow routes follows after those.

Downtown streets and city parking lots usually are plowed when snowfall totals at least 4 to 6 inches, the city snow removal policy says. Residential streets come last, though city crews will attack streets where snow tends to drift.

That said, “we generally don’t plow anything that’s not a snow route” except in the heaviest storms, Groseth said.

Except for the city’s newest concrete driving surfaces, Groseth said, his crews will lay down a mixture of red and white salt and magnesium chloride to minimize icy conditions on the streets.

The newly rebuilt stretches of East Philip Avenue east of Jeffers and Dewey streets will be treated with a mixture of gravel and sand due to their newness, Groseth said.

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