By Paul Garrod
LAWRENCE – Mother Nature’s one-two punch that unleashed a variety of weather beginning Friday, Jan. 12, over the weekend found Van Buren County Road Commission crews out in that wide mixture of weather that included rain, wet snow, snow, and high winds.
Van Buren County Road Commission Managing Director Bret Witkowski urged drivers on Monday, “Be cautious; crews are out plowing and working many hours but cannot use salt, except at intersections, curves, and hills because of the frigid temperatures; we have had 37 trucks out clearing the snow since Saturday. Hopefully, some sun tomorrow (Tuesday) will help everyone. We have also dealt with downed trees from the heavy snow Friday night and Saturday.”
Greg Brucks, VBCRC Operations Director, took some time off on Monday due to all the hours he put in over the weekend starting Saturday at midnight when the trees started falling, according to Witkowski.
Brucks told The Courier-Leader, “Roads are actually in pretty good shape considering the conditions we faced the last few days. The high winds and huge temperature fluctuations posed a few more difficulties than usual.”
He added, “The extremely wet and heavy snow Friday night and Saturday was very difficult to move. Resulting in very slow going and lots of fuel consumption by equipment. We ran staggered shifts beginning at 3:30 a.m. and continued to run everyone 10-13 hours. Every road under our jurisdiction, got plowed at least once Saturday.”
He noted, “The vast change in temperatures to below zero on Sunday, really packed the snow and ice to the roads surface and the light fluffy snow created widespread drifting. We caught a little break in the action, Sunday afternoon, when the wind died down and the lake effect snow was missing most parts of Van Buren County. This allowed staff to clean things up much better and widen everything out. By Sunday afternoon, most roads had been touched at least three times. The unfortunate remnant will likely remain on most roads, until the temperatures rise enough, for the “de-icing” materials to activate. For the most part – this is above 17 degrees.”
Brucks said he had the chance to speak with a few school districts within the county on Monday …most curious as to the road commission’s intentions for the remainder of the week. “Both myself and several staff members, take a little bit of offense, when school is canceled. Everyone I talked with complimented our efforts and assured me that school being closed today (possibly tomorrow too), was due to the fridged temps and not road conditions.”
Van Buren County schools were closed on Friday, due to the winter storm warning issued, as well as Monday and Tuesday, due to frigid temperatures that ranged from -7 to 7 degrees.
The National Weather Service issued a Wind Chill Advisory for Van Buren County through Wednesday morning.