More snow takes toll of budgets

PAT FRIDGEN
PennDOT foreman Bobby Bingaman fueled his loader in Greencastle Thursday morning before heading out to Grindstone Hill Road. He and his crew had plowed I-81 all night. He also moved snow Tuesday night, grabbing a nap between the long shifts.

"We blew our snow budget." So said Antrim Township administrator Brad Graham after the second major snowstorm in a week. Last Tuesday and Wednesday another foot of snow fell, on the heels of over 16 inches the previous Friday and Saturday.

Residents and public governing bodies shoveled furiously to open driveways, clear streets and roads, and restore mobility to every day life after the Feb. 9 and 10 snowfall. It came with a cost.

Greencastle Borough Manager Kenneth Womack reported the same financial effect. "We will be over budget for 2010."

Plowing crews from both municipalities were doing fine personally, both officials said, though the crews put in long hours to get their work done. Friday was the first day off in two weeks for the Antrim drivers. Graham said the latest experience got "pretty hairy" with blowing snow. Roadmaster Paul Minnich called off the crews Wednesday night since they couldn't make headway due to the drifting.

The state first restricted traffic on I-81 to 45 miles per hour but by 1:30 p.m. Wednesday closed it altogether. It reopened early the next morning. Various roads in Franklin County were closed, most notably Route 30 from St. Thomas to Route 75. The drifted snow was cleared late Thursday afternoon.

How much?

Once again, the snowfall was just a regular byproduct of winter. "It was definitely a lighter, powdery snow, good for blowing," said Greencastle weather observer Robert Wertime. He recorded 11.9 inches between 11:10 a.m. Feb. 9 and 9 p.m. Feb. 10.

All that snow equaled just .88 inches of melt. The northwest winds gusted 20 to 30 miles per hour once they arrived.

The latest round brought the February snow total to 33.1 inches and the winter total to 59.92 inches, or five feet for conversational purposes. It is still a ways to a record. Wertime had data from Hagerstown, Md. which saw 74 inches during the winter of 1960-61, and 68.8 inches in 1995-96.

Business as usual, or not

The post office experienced some disruption in service with the distribution center in Harrisburg due to the interstate closure, but beyond that the employees fullfilled the old motto, 'Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.' The saying did not originate with the postal service and actually dates to the ancient Persian Empire. Nevertheless, Greencastle postmaster Stanley Rock sent out the carriers every day last week. "They delivered where they could," he said, citing some problems with drifted roads and blocked mailboxes. However, he credited customers with, as usual, being very good at clearing the area in front of their boxes.

Classes in the Greencastle-Antrim School District were cancelled Wednesday and Thursday, and students had off Friday for a teacher professional day and Monday for winter break. The makeup days will be March 15 and April 1.

The Antrim Board of Supervisors met briefly Tuesday evening. Graham said Fred Young III and Rick Baer just came off a shift from plowing all day, and James Byers joined the night shift after the 15-minute meeting. Graham himself went out the next two evenings. The other two supervisors, Sam Miller and Curtis Myers, were busy with storm-related duties.

Antrim received compliments from residents on the state of the township roads. Graham said complaints starting Thursday tended to concern state roads. His employees became frustrated Thursday because they had to respond to calls from PennDot to assist motorists who were stuck since the state didn't have manpower in the immediate area. Antrim also made sure roads were open when police or ambulances were called to specific addresses.

Back in the borough, Womack said the four road crew members took care of the regular plowing, but extra help was hired to haul the snowbanks away. They were able to take Friday afternoon off. Crews addressed the alleys after the main streets were done and citizens had expressed satisfaction with the plowing efforts.

Greencastle does not have a snow emergency ordinance because there is no place for people to move their cars if they don't have off-street parking. Womack said the borough would tow vehicles if there was a safety concern, but he didn't foresee that.

While not happy with the budget information, Womack added the past three years the borough was under budget in the plowing line itme. "You try to anticipate but are at the mercy of the weather."

The town has plenty of street clearing supplies, with salt available if another order is necessary, but just the same, Womack cautioned, "We are ok for the time being, but we can't take a couple more of these (storms)."

Graham concurred. Antrim's stockpile of salt was just used for its intended purpose, so it needs to order more.

A friendly reminder

A PennDOT spokesman reminded residents it is illegal to dump snow back onto state roads. That hampers efforts to keep the roads passable. "If one of our trucks hits a larger pile of snow than what is already piling up on the roads, it can actually damage our plows, not to mention giving our operators quite a jolt," she said. "We realize people don't know where to put the snow, but we are asking for some assistance in helping us do our job."