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What is the process of removing snow off streets in Alexandria, roads in Douglas County?

Dane Bosl, Alexandria Public Works director and Steve Johansen, Douglas County Maintenance Superintendent explain the process.

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Alexandria city crews clear snow away from Broadway Street in downtown Alexandria after a winter storm hit the area in December 2021. The snow started in the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 26 and continued until the early morning of Monday, Dec. 27. Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA – After a big snow storm, why is all the snow piled in the middle of the streets in Alexandria?

The answer is actually quite simple. There’s no room for it to go. At least not right away.

Dane Bosl, Alexandria Public Works director, explained that after a big snow event, the city crews work on getting paths cleared for emergency and fire crews, along with law enforcement, but that the city doesn’t have enough manpower or equipment to completely clean the streets all at the same time.

He said they widen the streets first and then haul it away after. And during the snow events that took place right after Christmas, Dec. 26-29, his crews hauled away roughly 1,100 loads of snow. That snow is either dumped in a spot at the Alexandria Airport or the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Higher traffic roads – Broadway, Nokomis, 3rd Avenue, 50th Avenue, Voyager Drive, etc. – are taken care of first. Although for 3rd Avenue and Broadway, at least between 3rd and 15th Avenues, the city only hauls the snow away. The state takes care of the snowplowing for those roads as they are part of the state highway system.

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Bosl, along with Douglas County Maintenance Superintendent Steve Johansen, are always keeping their eyes and ears open for snow events.

Bosl said that typically the day before a big snowfall is predicted, he makes sure all the equipment is ready to go and hopes for no breakdowns. Unfortunately, this year, there have been some mechanical problems.

He also said that most often his crews are out plowing by 3 a.m.

Johansen said he monitors between five and six weather websites and tries to be as prepared as possible. If something significant is predicted he usually notifies his crew that they have to report by 4 a.m. the next day.

Unlike the city where there is no room to put the snow, Johansen said that when his crews plow, the snow can go into the ditches and road right of ways. Heaviest traveled roads are cleared first with crews working on blacktop roads before gravel, he added.

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Snow in roadways and blowing snow made for difficult driving conditions in some parts of Alexandria Monday morning. Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

For both the city and the county, the weather has to be pretty extreme before plows are pulled off the roads.

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“It will have to be really bad as my guys normally don’t want to quit before they are done,” said Johansen.

Bosl said, “Pulling plows really depends on the weather. If my crew can’t see or if there is risk to my drivers, I’ll pull them off the roads.”

He also explained that if plows have been out for long periods of time, he’ll pull them as his crew needs to get some sleep, too. During the last big snow event after Christmas, crews were out for 15 hours the first day, 12 hours the next day and about 10 hours the next two days.

When it comes to where residents can put their snow, Johansen stressed that they cannot push the snow into the road or the road right of ways. The county owns the right of ways and that is where his snow plow drivers push the snow coming off the roads.

Bosl basically stressed the same thing for city residents, as well as contractors.

He said this year there has been a problem with contractors pushing snow into the streets.

“We need to get that to stop,” he said, adding that contractors should not be pushing snow from parking lots or wherever they are plowing into the street.

He would like residents and contractors to also not put snow in the right of ways, but if they do push it there, they need to get it out within a couple of days.

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“It’s best to keep it out of the road right of ways because we need that space,” he said. “For a day or two, I guess it is OK, but then get it moved.”

Bosl also noted that contractors cannot haul their snow to the same space the city uses, including the airport and fairgrounds.

“They need to find their own space,” he said. “In 2018, we almost ran out of room.”

In addition, Bosl said it really helps for residents to get their vehicles off the streets after a heavy snowfall. He said the Alexandria Police Department has been doing an excellent job “red tagging” vehicles. This means that vehicles need to be moved from snowy streets or they will get towed.

Both Bosl and Johansen said that when big snowfall events happen, people just need to be patient and give snowplow drivers some space.

“Every storm is different and there are so many factors,” said Bosl. “Just please give them some room and be patient. We are trying to do our best.”

Johansen said, “Please, please be patient and don’t push your snow onto the roads.”

He also said that he has heard from many that Douglas County roads are much better than some other counties in the state and that he is very proud of his staff and the work they do.

Related Topics: ALEXANDRIAWEATHER
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