Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snow Removal In Texas....

To say they don't really know a lot about snow removal here in North Texas would be a fair statement. After all - we usually only get couple of snowfalls a year and they rarely amount to much.  The snow is normally off the roads by the next day - if it accumulates on them at all.  Once in a while we get a larger snowfall or, worse yet, ice.  That's what happened beginning on Thursday of last week.

The sleet began on Thursday evening, just after sundown.  Fortunately for all of us it wasn't freezing rain since it can be so much more devastating; taking out trees and power lines.  As it was about 100,000 people lost power.  We were fortunate - that didn't happen here.

By Friday morning this was the view from our deck in the back...

Although it looks like pretty snow, that's about 2 inches of ice crystals piled up. In the yard it was more like an inch and a half.  The deck is somewhat protected by the house.  But that ice was also on the driveway (which slopes up to the street at about a 20 degree angle) and the roads.

The DFW area and surrounding communities don't have a lot of snow removal equipment.  So the entire area was pretty well shut down Friday and Saturday. There was some movement yesterday afternoon but the cold temperatures kept the ice from melting and the sand they put on the roads didn't do a whole lot.

Arden was stuck in Fort Worth at her brother's house.  She didn't want to chance driving on that ice and I didn't want her to.  She was safe and warm, as was I, so we just decided to wait it out.  I didn't even try to go anywhere because I knew I'd never get my car up the driveway.  And before anyone asks about shoveling - By Friday noon the ice crystals were fusing together and it was hard enough that I could walk on it without breaking through.  No, I stayed home and kept busy with some projects and movies.  Oh, and blogs, of course.

After three days of gloomy skies and cold temperatures, the sun came out this morning.  We still had ice all over but the sun gleaming off of it was beautiful - at least from inside my nice, warm home. The sun on the ice and the reflections on the pond were quite incredible. I did venture out to take a picture...

I decided it was time to see if I could get my car on the road.  I backed out of the garage and over a drift about 5 inches high just outside the door. That particular spot gets no sunlight this time of year. The weight of the car didn't even put a dent in the drift - it's that hard.  It merely left a tire track on it.

I parked the car for a minute and got out a garden shovel.  (We don't even have a snow shovel... yet.)  I drove it into the drift and it went in about 1/4 inch.  That drift is going to stay there a few more days.

I tested the ice in various places.  Where the sun was hitting it the ice was melting and turning to slush.  I decided to see what would happen if I just drove up the driveway toward the street.  My car is front-wheel drive so I had better traction than a rear-wheel drive car.  I backed up to the very back edge of the driveway, put it in low gear, and began slowly depressing the gas pedal.  The tires spun, as I knew they would, but I began moving across the flat part of the driveway toward the hill. I actually made it about halfway up the hill. (It's about 60 feet from the beginning of the slope to the street.) I backed up slowly to the end of the drive and started again. This time I made it about 2 thirds of the way before I stopped moving forward.

My neighbors must have thought by then that I was crazy but I didn't care.  I was determined to make it.  I'd been stuck in the house for nearly three days and I wanted to get out for a little while.

I backed up again and again, pushing my little car to see how far I could make it. What I was actually doing was creating a clear path with my tires so I would know exactly where to shovel the ice and slush away. I finally got to a point where I was no longer making any progress - about three fourths of the way up. I just couldn't get past there.  So I backed the car down again and got out my flat shovel.  Within 10 minutes I had two paths about 18 inches wide that went all the way to the street.  There were places near the bottom that were still heavily iced over but the last 30 feet was bare concrete for both tires.  I put the shovel away, fired the car up and drove up and out of my driveway onto a very slushy, but navigable street!

Our neighborhood doesn't get any snow removal so I wasn't surprised by the condition of the road.  I went around to the main road that services our area and it was passable - still some ice on it but some clear roadway as well. I decided to go the 2-1/2 miles out to the main highway to check the conditions so I could tell Arden for her return home tomorrow.

I drove out to the intersection and had to wait at a red light. The city was using a road grader as a snow plow and I watched it drive by.  The highway is two lanes going in each direction with an extra wide turn lane in the center.  The grader operator was clearing the inside lane going westbound and pushing the ice and slush into the outside lane.

The light changed and I made my turn to the East. Both lanes were fairly clear but I could tell the turn lane hadn't been cleaned at all. I drove up two lights and figured it was OK - I could tell Arden she could return safely tomorrow.

I turned onto a side street to head back home.  About halfway there I realized that I probably should drive out of town onto the highway to see how it looked.  Our local streets were clear but what about out past the city limits?

So I made a circle and came back out to the same intersection and same red light.  When I turned eastbound on the highway the road grader (snow plow) was about a mile in front of me and the driving lanes were covered with ice and slush. How could this be?  I had just been here five minutes earlier and they were clear!

As I got closer to the road grader traffic slowed (because of the ice and slush) and I realized what had happened. The operator had started with the outside lanes in both directions. He plowed the outside eastbound lane to the city limit sign, then turned around and plowed the outside lane on the westbound side. Then he turned around and plowed the inside lanes in both directions, putting the ice and slush back in the outside lanes.  Finally, after he got the driving lanes "clear", he plowed the turn lane in both directions, pushing all the ice and slush right back into the driving lanes! As I said - they're not very knowledgeable about snow removal here!  I grew up in Ohio.  Maybe I could get a part-time job....  ?

When I returned from my little excursion I happened to look out the back window.  And while this has nothing to do with my story - I thought I'd include it anyway. This was my view...

Have a great evening!

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