Road crews faced with limited sand, hampered by lack of equipment

By Dan Aznoff | Feb 15, 2019
Courtesy of: Corporal Rory Mundwiler Police in Mill Creek recruited some help from somebody who knows how to deal with the winter weather. Officers found time between rescuing stranded motorists and anxious homeowners to build a snowman behind City Hall. Frosty the Policeman is expected to stay on duty through next week when he either retires or melts away.

Mill Creek Mayor Pam Pruitt used breaks from her regular job at the office of Snohomish County Councilmember Terry Ryan to monitor shipments of aggregate to city yards in Mill Creek, Woodinville, Bothell and other areas hit hard by the wet winter blast.

A shortage of supplies and disabled machinery combined to make the snowfall that fell on local highways into ribbons of frustrated motorists across the southern portion of the county.

Maintenance crews from Snohomish County and Mill Creek worked overnight shifts to prepare roads for the winter blast that brought the area to a standstill on Sunday night.

But no amount of preparation could have overcome the lack of sand and salt that plagued communities throughout the region.

Mill Creek, Pruitt explained, was at the mercy of suppliers who found themselves short of sand to fill trucks. The one truck operated by the City of Mill Creek was down for maintenance.

“We do not have the space or the resources to keep an adequate supply of sand and salt dry and ready,” Pruitt explained with a sigh. “We are not a big city that can spare the room or the resources to respond to a storm that hits every 10 years.”

Crews from the county crews applied 250 tons of sand, 203 tons of a mixture of salt

and sand, and 1,400 gallons of liquid anti-icer to county roads in preparation for a second commute the next day that moved in just before the evening commute.

“Our crews are working hard to keep the streets clear, and we also need your help to keep everyone safe,” Snohomish County Public Works Director Steve Thomsen said. “Do not sled on unincorporated county roads or slopes leading onto county roads, as Snohomish County Public Works crews are plowing and sanding streets for vehicle use.”

Crews worked 12-hour shifts for at least the next 24 hours until conditions improved.

Check for road closures on the Snohomish County Road Closure Information website.

City Councilmember Vince Cavaleri had the best solution to deal with the frigid weather. He packed his family in the car, braved the roads to SeaTac and flew off for a few days in the warmth and sunshine of Palm Springs.

Before heading out today or during a snow or ice event, it is highly recommended that commuters check their travel routes and options. For those venturing through unincorporated Snohomish County, visit the Public Works Snow and Ice webpage for more information on the county’s snow response.

During snow/ice weather events, it’s also important to know who to call and when:

  • Life-threatening emergencies, call 911.
  • Non-life threatening emergencies: 425-407-3999
  • Give snowplows and deicers plenty of room to work. Allow for a minimum following distance of 200 feet from the plows and de-icers while they are working.
  • If you must pass, take extreme caution and beware of the displaced snow and ice, or sand spray.
  • Vehicles parked along all major arterials and emergency routes must be moved off the street. It is recommended for them to be moved when snow is in the forecast.
  • Keep drainage inlets near your home clear of leaves and debris during the winter months to help reduce the chance of flooding.
  • Try to keep garbage bins and other obstacles out of the street when the roads are icy or covered with snow.

Obey road-closed signs.

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