As the second snowstorm of the season buried Storm Lake streets in snow and slush Thursday, with more powder expected by Saturday, city officials hoped to avoid the kind of complaints that had been heard the weekend before with an ice and snow storm.
"There definately were some challenges with that first storm, and there were complaints, although most of them came to us second-hand. We know people were upset and talking about it," City Administrator Patti Moore said as the newest flakes were filtering down from a gun-metal gray sky.
At issue is not just how the city clears the streets, but when.
"The general policy is to wait to do a lot of the streets until overnight. In the case of the first storm, the precipitation was frozen by then, and that made it hard to clean streets and they stayed slick in spots," Moore said.
City officials see the timing as a catch-22 situation. "If we went out right away during the day and ran plows dumping snow and slush over people's cars parked on those streets, I'm sure they wouldn't be happy about that either," the administrator said.
With the parking snow ban in place, crews are able to work overnight to clear streets without the obstacles of parked cars and traffic, she said.
"We do have crews working day and night to keep the major emergency route streets clean, and then we will add the other streets as quickly as possible at night," Moore said.
Crews will start on sidestreets as early as 10 p.m. if needed to make sure they are safely passible by morning.
The problems during the first storm cleanup were aggravated by the unexpectedly short-handed conditions of the plow crew. One worker had gone down with a heart condition requiring surgery, and another had been injured. Neither had been able to return to work in time for Thursday's snowfall, but the city was better able to plan for its available mainpower.
While the season's first snowstorm served as a learning experience that the city will consider in dealing with the rest of winter's worst, Moore said that no major changes in strategy have been made in road treatment materials, equipment or schedules at this time.