Snow removal Essay
Winter comes with snow, a great nuisance to the citizens. This is so because it destructs all usual activities when it blocks all the roads and pathways. For this reason, the US has the Department of Sanitation to help in snow removal during winter. The US Weather Bureau always determines the coming of the storm and its strength but sometimes it can be caught unawares. On Sunday, February 9, 1969, it was caught by surprise when a major fifteen-inch snowstorm occurred in New York City. Due to the severity of the situation, the removal activity needed more personnel to add to the minimal Sunday work force.
Many people could not get to their destinations due to the rapid snow accumulation on major traffic arteries and breakdowns in the public transit system. Those who managed to get to their destination ended up abandoning their vehicles; they experienced equipment failure and high winds that created deep snowdrifts (The Electronic Hallway). In the US, such issues are likely to be politicized if the matter is not dealt with very fast. In such a case, the Mayor is supposed to answer questions as to why the snow is not cleared and why are there no equipments or work force to do the job as quickly as possible.
For example, in New York City, the issue became a political matter when the storm was not cleared immediately. More so, the residents of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island felt like they did not receive a fair share of snow removal activity compared with the Manhattan residents. This made Mayor John Lindsay-who was facing reelection challenge later that year- to be highly criticized for mismanagement of the City’s snow removal resources and, thereby, for exhibiting favoritism toward Manhattan at the expense of the rest of the City.
The mayor as a leader of the city has to take up responsibility by ensuring that there is enough equipment to deal with whatever inch of the snowstorm and moreover, ensure that all areas receive the same services. The blame shifted to the Mayor because the Mayor’s office carries a lot of duties within the City. The office is supposed to administer all city services, police and fire protection, enforce the cities and state laws, public property and most public agencies. The Mayor is in charge of appointing a number of officials like commissioners of various departments.
This means that the Mayor appoints the Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation. Thus if any short comings are faced by the people, they blame the Mayor for the poor choice of a commissioner (Department of Sanitation, 2008). The storm caught people by surprise but there had to be remedies to avoid such future occurrences. it was suggested that the Department of Sanitation which is responsible for snow removal, refuse collection and disposal and street cleaning, should keep more sanitation workers on duty around the clock during the winter.
In addition, it was suggested that there should be more hiring of more mechanics to maintain existing equipment and the City to buy more snow removal equipment. Allowing sanitation workers to report when need arises and hiring privately owned bulldozers were among the solutions offered (The Electronic Hallway). For such a problem to be solved quickly, the Mayor’s office of administration has to take up the responsibility of coming up with lasting solutions. It has to do a thorough check up on the City’s capability of snow-fighting.
It involves gathering data and descriptive information with the intension of presenting an analysis for the Mayor to review and action. It gives the office of the mayor the chance to identify and eliminate major shortcomings in the snow removal program. As discussed earlier in the text, the US Weather Bureau is in charge of knowing the weather pattern of every part of the state. It is responsible for taking weather information, analyzing it and informing individuals daily about the weather conditions so that they can take the necessary precautions.
For instance after the New York City 9th snow storm, it carried out studies on how the snow storm pattern. It came up with; snowfall in New York City averages thirty-three inches annually, an average season has two storms with snowfall greater than four inches and during the period from 1910 to 1967, there were only five snowstorms in New York City that had a snowfall of at least fifteen inches (Department of Sanitation, 2008). Information in the first page tells us that the Department of Sanitation is in charge of snow removal in the city. It is the world’s largest Sanitation Department.
It has its own police force: Sanitation Police, who are uniformed and undercover officers. They handle any sanitation related emergency calls. The enforcement of sanitation related laws, state and city traffic and criminal laws are done by them. They have peace officer powers as they have Special Patrolman status. They can carry and use firearms, make warrantless arrests, use handcuffs, use physical and deadly force and issue summonses. They have marked and unmarked cars. The Department of Sanitation carries out a number of activities during the winter season to ensure that the snow does not destruct daily routines.
It must have the necessary equipment not only machinery but also human resources. It comprises of sanitation workers and supervisors, street sweepers, civilian workers, salt and sand spreaders. The equipments used are salt, bulldozers, trucks, heavy duty plows, graders and snow blowers. Snow removal involves a variety of activities: spreading salt, plowing and hauling away snow. Salt spreaders, crosswalk plows, snow blowers and snow loaders are used only for snow removal activities. Other equipments, such as the trucks are used for plowing but also serve different functions when they are not being used for snow removal.
There are several activities carried out during the snow removal; first of all salt spreading is the number one activity carried out to fight the snow. It is mostly done twelve times a year; salt is spread for the six or seven snowfalls that turn out to be greater than one inch, for others that have a deposit of less than an inch and also freezing rain. Salt is mostly helpful in melting snow when traffic is very heavy. The Department highly depends on the truck used for refuse collection. It has an allowance for mounting a plow on its front end when it is needed for snow removal. One to two hours are required to mount a plow on the truck.
Plowing is mostly done whenever snow depths are expected to approach four inches or so. It is done at an average of three or four times a year. Plowing depends on specific factors; current ground temperature, predicted air temperature, wind and traffic conditions. For snowfalls greater than six inches when the temperature is expected to remain below freezing for an appreciable period of time, hauling is the best method. The method is rare because it is rare for snowfall to be around six inches (The Electronic Hallway). The snow removal activity mainly depends on the depth of the snowfall and the temperatures.
The salt spreading activity is sufficient for snow removal when snow is up to six inches in depth and if the temperatures rise above freezing. Low temperatures impede snow removal and limit lower-cost dissipation techniques (flushing, scattering and “sewering” effective only when temperatures are above freezing) by slowing or stopping snow shrinkage and inhibiting salt’s melting action. Salt spreading is not useful when temperatures are below 10° F. Low temperatures are a great setback to the snow removal activity. Moving parts of the machineries like trucks and plows freeze thus reducing overall productivity.
Hydrants, on the other hand, can not be used when temperatures are below 34° F. in low temperatures, snow deposited in sewers clog rather than melt away and snow tends to scatter in traffic and blocks the cars. Moreover, snow dumped at waterfront bulkheads can pile up and prevent further dumping rather than be washed away (The Electronic Hallway). The Department of Sanitation always makes a budget to purchase the necessary equipment for snow removal and other activities it carries. In times of snow removal, the budget could be less or more depending on the amount of snow experienced that particular winter season.
The budget also includes the amount that workers both permanently and temporarily employed are going to be paid. An allowance to employ extra work force is usually given incase of unpredictable snowstorms (Office of the New York State). Sometimes the budget is strained when the snow storm takes a longer period of time. When the storm occurs within a one-week period, snow removal operations are longer and the endurance of workers and machinery are also tested. Conditions worsen when the successive storms are large, though it is a rare occurrence.
For easier work, the Department of Sanitation has subdivided New York City in ten boroughs, each of which has a number of districts and within them there are sections. This helps out in work planning and activity allocation. The districts are realigned periodically to accommodate the population shifts. Each district operates a garage where the entire district’s equipment is housed and where routine maintenance is performed. To avoid neglecting one City Street, all city streets have been classified in terms of their priority for snow removal. The three priority levels include; primary, secondary and tertiary.
Primary; in this category there are streets considered main traffic arteries, thoroughfares or lifeline streets such as highways, parkways, expressways, drives or bridges. Feeder approaches to, and exists from, bridges, tunnels, ferries, highways and airports; all bus routes, private and city-owned. All streets within concentrated food-produce, industrial, financial, theatrical-amusement, shopping, hospital, or maritime (passenger and freight) areas; streets on which are located vital facilities, such as firehouses, police stations, hospitals, newspaper plants, fuel distribution depots and transportation terminals.
Secondary; streets with reasonably heavy traffic, other than primary streets (includes all non-primary streets of 59th street in Manhattan); alternate routes for primary streets, short lengths of residential area streets that feed into primary streets, main local shopping streets and main access streets in limited industrial or commercial areas. Tertiary; it includes all other streets. The primary and secondary division is to permit police, fire and hospital vehicles to advance within one or two blocks of an emergency on a tertiary street.
The primary streets comprise of 43% of the linear street mileage, but 45% of the spreader miles, and 55% of the plow miles in the City. Depending on the width of the street, a vehicle may have to traverse it more than once in order to salt it or plow it, while spreaders and plows have different effective widths (The Electronic Hallway). Since the City can change from time to time, the Department of Sanitation has taken charge to review its snow route networks annually. This helps it to note the changes in bus routes, street directions and other area characteristics; snow clearance and disposal procedures; and specialized problems.
For each district, separate schedules and routes are prepared for spreading salt, plowing and hauling snow. The Department of Traffic also plays a role in snow removal. It has designated and marked a portion of primary streets as Snow Emergency Streets, on which travel during snow alert is restricted to cars with skid chains or snow tires. Vehicle standing and parking is prohibited. The department of Sanitation has regulated its working hours and shift. During a snowstorm, it works two shifts per 24-hour a day. Each shift is allocated eleven hours with one hour in between.
In any shift, about two-thirds of the time is spent on productive work like plowing and salt spreading. The other time is for refueling or loading, meals and rest breaks. It is important for the work force to have a break so that they can regain strength to work again and faster. About one hour and twenty minutes is required for various start-up activities and traveling to the beginning of the route. Prior preparations to work are made when plow blades and chains are attached to operable refuse collection trucks and street flusher trucks every Saturday night and on evenings before holidays during the snow season.
If there is no snow, plow blades and chains are removed before normal usage begins. Salt spreaders work when: there is freezing rain or sleet and the air temperature is less than 32° F. , and any snowfall is equal to or greater than one inch. The salt spreaders are very useful during snowstorms to prevent icy roads conditions, to reduce accumulation of ice and snow, and spread salt on streets that have already been plowed. As mentioned earlier, salt can only work to six inches depth of snow, thus the spreaders start losing their effectiveness when the snow starts to heighten its depth.
If the Sanitation Department gets a prompt start, then salting can be done on snow up to five inches. Other than putting warning sighs on Snow Emergency Streets, the Traffic Department helps in mixing salt with snow and breaking up ice layers that have been weakened by salt. However, work can be made difficult if from the beginning the snow is not mixed well with salt and other necessary chemicals. It is important to mix the salt and the chemicals very well with the snow so that it can melt away otherwise, it will take a longer time to penetrate and remove the ice or very hard snow.
The spreaders carry a lot of salt at the start of the storm; about nine to fourteen cubic yards of salt capacity. The speed of spreading varies from four miles per hour on some streets in some boroughs to ten miles per hour on highways, with an average of seven miles per hour. There are salt-loading spots located throughout the City. The Department of Sanitation has 2230 collection trucks to which plow blades are mounted to clear snow from the path of moving traffic, from bus stops, at intersections and around fire hydrant areas.
Plowing depends on the priority level but as discussed earlier fire, hospitals, ambulance services are prioritized first. There are allocations of equipment for plowing and associated workload indicators for each borough. For example in Manhattan West, there are 162 plow-bearing trucks, 626 primary streets, 739 primary and secondary streets. A plow can run at fifteen miles per hour if it is not interrupted by traffic. Traffic, especially weekdays, is a major hindrance for the plows to work effectively. During rush hours, the average speed is five miles per hour.
The department has a Snow Removal Manual that explains how the machineries are supposed to be handled. Inspection of equipment early I September has to be done to determine required repairs, performing repair work later in the month, field testing in early November and checking the functioning of snow removal equipment operation at frequent intervals. The Department of Sanitation has 7899 uniformed workers and supervisors, 2041 civilian workers, 450 street sweepers and 365 salt and sand spreaders who can be assigned to work during snow storms.
The workers and equipments are assigned to a district to meet the weekly workload as determined primarily by refuse collection and street-sweeping schedules. There are several steps that the department takes to ensure that there are enough workers to work during snowstorms. They hire mechanics on a snow season basis around September 15th, who, with the sanitation workers, are assigned garage duties, maintenance of equipment in a high state of readiness. The mechanics are assigned to garages throughout the City to ensure equal maintenance capability citywide.
There is switch of personnel and equipment from day to day-and –night refuses collection, on or about November 15th, when shift times are changed and personnel are reassigned within each district. A review is carried by sanitation borough superintendents with each respective district superintendent by November 15th. It covers district personnel assignments to the day-and-night plow organization and to the day-and-night snow removal organization. It assures that a sufficient number of workers are assigned to each shift. It requests other city departments to furnish workers to perform various snow removal activities, mainly hauling snow.
The commissioner, who is the head of the Department of Sanitation, may order the hiring of private laborers and truck drivers to remove snow. There are instructions and lists of duties for assignments to the employees department, personnel from other city departments and those from Civil Service, at the Sanitation Training Center. When there is a surprise storm, the Department of Sanitation has to take some form of action despite the budget set: relying on the scheduled manpower only, extending shifts and calling in additional workers.
Such decisions mostly rely on the weather reports, experience, general operational procedures and long-established priorities. This is to ensure that manpower levels fit the severity of the storm. Due to fighting snow, the Department of Sanitation needs to have updates of the weather forecast so that it can make necessary arrangements to clear roads and pathways. It therefore has a communication system for snow removal management. It has an elaborate communications network for updating forecasts, mobilizing resources and reporting snow conditions.
It maintains close network with the US Weather Bureau’s New York forecaster on a telephone hot line established between two agencies during the snow season. Transmission of any kind of threat is done as soon as it is noticed. It also contracts a private forecasting service to relay weather condition information three times daily. It has eighteen weather observation stations on the City’s perimeter, form which periodic reports on the start of precipitation, snow depths, temperature and rate of accumulation are telephoned to the headquarters’ snow office.
After the first report, conditions are checked and telephoned to sanitation headquarters every half hour. When snow is forecast by any available sources, the control center, which is under the instructions of the Chief of Operations, teletypes alerts to the borough and district offices. The teletype system operates on a twenty-four hour basis with a network of 140 two-way radios for communications among supervisors’ cars, districts and headquarters.