Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

January 21, 2011

Plows at work

Crews keep up with white stuff

EFFINGHAM — The snow keeps falling, and as the snow falls, plows aren’t far behind scooping it up.

    The white stuff has kept road crews busy, and while snowfalls have been more frequent this winter, they have dumped smaller amounts of snow, meaning crews have been able to keep up.

    “We’ve not really had a big snow,” said Effingham County Engineer Greg Koester.

    While Thursday’s snowfall was the biggest to date this season, Koester said it would take a large storm of 6 to 12 inches with high winds that would slow snow removal down.

    The county is responsible for plowing about 150 miles of the 900 miles of rural roadway in Effingham County, taking care of the more traveled roads. The remaining roads are maintained by 15 townships.

    The snowfall has county workers plowing around the clock to make sure the main arteries are safe for travel.

    Even though employees are putting in overtime, it’s time that can be banked later, according to Koester, so the cost has not crimped the county’s snow removal budget. However, a large snowstorm that has crews working for a week straight around the clock might be a different story.

    “It could really rack up,” he said.

    City street workers may not be working around the clock, but the snow does have them coming in around 3:30 a.m., nearly four hours earlier than usual.

    Despite the reduction in staff due to retirement since the beginning of the year, the city has managed to keep the roads clear with employees from other divisions pitching in.

    “We’re trying to utilize manpower to the best of our ability,” said Effingham City Administrator Jim Arndt.

    Not only are workers for Kiefer Landscaping also getting an early start on snow removal for area businesses and residents, but their day can last well into the evening.

    “Last week, some guys were out until 7 p.m.,” said employee Cory Kalber, adding the length of the work day can depend on blowing or drifting snow.

    The company keeps a close eye on the forecast.

    “As soon as there’s 2 inches, our plows hit the ground,” said Kalber.

    The snowfall amount to date in the Effingham area is a little more than last year, with more than a total of 11 inches recorded by Thursday morning compared to 7 inches last year at this time. Still, the bulk of the snow last year did not come until February.

    “Last couple of years, quite a bit of snow fell in February,” said Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

    While Angel said a typical winter snowfall for the area averages 14 to 18 inches, a more recent winter, 2002-03, saw more than 28 inches. That amount is still nowhere near the record snowfall of 40.6 inches in 1977-78.

    It appears the latest storm system dumped between 4 and 5 inches of snow on the Effingham area and another inch is forecast for Friday evening, with the possibility of a little heavier snowfall Sunday night.

    And it looks as if the snow may stay around, as temperatures are expected to stay below freezing well into next week, with the exception of occasional sun breakthroughs that could melt away at the white stuff in some places, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Kirk Huettl. He added the good news is residents won’t have to worry about ice, as the colder temperatures cause fluffier snow.

    After back-to-back storm systems, a break in the snow may be on the horizon for the rest of this month into February as drier and cooler weather is expected. However, that all could turn around next month as above normal precipitation is predicted.

    “It doesn’t look like we’re going to break out of the pattern in February,” said Huettl.

    Cathy Thoele can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 126 or cathy.thoele@effinghamdailynews.com.

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