Snowy record: December brings two feet of snow, lots of plowingThe snow fell and fell this past month in Douglas County, and kept falling this week right into the record books.
By: Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
The snow fell and fell this past month in Douglas County, and kept falling this week right into the record books.
December brought snowstorms seemingly one after another this winter, but it was one last blast Tuesday that guaranteed 2008 as the snowiest December in county history, adding 8 inches to an already substantial snowfall sum.
Roughly 28 inches of the white stuff blanketed the area last month, burying the previous record of 23.1 inches, set back in 1968.
By comparison, over the last decade, Douglas County averaged 4.85 inches of snowfall during December.
The closest to 2008’s mountain was 2007, which recorded 16 inches.
“We haven’t had this much snow in a long time,” said Bryan Bjorgaard, Alexandria’s street commissioner, while out plowing Tuesday afternoon. “It’s unreal.”
The record snowfall last month ensured a white Christmas in Douglas County.
It also caused loads of driving debacles, from major accidents to minor spinouts, and kept local public works departments very busy.
“We’ve worked more overtime in the last month than we did all ,” Bjorgaard said of Alexandria’s snowplow crew. “The snowfalls, they just keep coming – back to back to back.”
The city has 13 plow truck drivers, he said, who usually work a 12-hour shift starting at 3 a.m. during or after a snowstorm.
“We can get the whole town plowed out in about 12 hours,” Bjorgaard said, “which is really good for a city our size.”
Jane Blade, Alexandria’s financial director, said the city has paid $3,500 so far in overtime for December 2008, not counting the month’s final two weeks, which haven’t been accounted for yet due to the city’s payroll schedule.
In December 2007, Alexandria paid out $7,000 in overtime.
“When we get snow in December,” Blade said, “it adds up in a hurry – the overtime that the crew has put in.”
The same can be said for Douglas County’s snowplow team, which employs 20 people and has needed every one this past month, according to Dave Robley, the county’s public works director.
“We’ve been out every weekend in December so far,” Robley said. “It’s been a busy winter.”
Crews have been working on average an extra four to five hours a day the past few weekends, Robley said, for an additional 200 man-hours per weekend, which adds up quickly at $22.50 to $30 an hour for each driver.
But the county budgets for snow removal overtime, he said, and saves some cash by offering its drivers the option of banking bonus vacation time rather than taking straight overtime pay.
Bjorgaard said the city does the same.
“These guys have been sitting in trucks for 12 hours a day, and frankly they get pretty tired,” Bjorgaard said. “So we give them a day off here and there when it’s not snowing.”