I've been biting my tongue for a couple of winters now, but I finally have got to say something about the snow plowing, or lack of, in Craig.
On Wednesday, I cleaned my double drive, making a quick pass at my senior neighbor's walk and mailbox, clearing the sidewalks in front of my home, and parts of the two adjoining properties - all prior to leaving for work at 8 a.m.
At work, I did some shoveling there as well, until the contracted services showed up to clear the walks and parking spaces.
I thought I was done.
But of course it was still snowing. After work, noonish, I had to run errands in and across town, observing several small cars and med-sized front wheeled drive cars stuck in the "parking lanes" downtown with people trying to assist without being hit along the plowed street centers.
Later I picked up my 84-year-old mother to get her to the places she needed to go for things: Jackson's, Kmart, Safeway and back to the senior apartments on Ledford.
This was only accomplished after driving around the block a few times so she could get out without snow over her shoe tops.
It was finally accomplished by letting her out on the plowed traffic side.
Kind of reminded me of dodge-um cars.
When I finally arrived home, around 3 p.m., I found the standard city of Craig snow removal had been completed.
The center of the roadway was clear - scraped to the 1-2 inch base, as they call it in ski areas - and the typical 8 feet wide of 6 to 9 inches deep of compacted snow pushed to the side.
That 8 feet included 5 feet to the curb and 3 feet across the 4-foot sidewalk.
Areas I had so diligently cleaned prior to 8 a.m. so:
• Kids could go to the bus stop without having to be in the street.
• My mailbox and the neighbor's cleared so that the Post Office man could make his appointed rounds
• And the other neighbor's driveway access cleared so daycare parents could pull up to the driveway and unload.
So, I changed from office apparel into my winter parka and mukluks, gassed the snowblower and proceeded to clear the sidewalks, the gutter, the additional 5 feet of residue in the street.
And I decided to put my frustration on paper.
I grew up along Lake Erie. I know what real snowfalls and drifting snows are.
I can remember when a small jeep plow with a 20-foot whip antenna got stuck one mile off the highway. In the hour it took for the operator to get back to the road, flagdown a State plow and return to the jeep, the only thing that was visible was the last 1 foot of antenna and the orange flag.
Since they didn't know how the jeep was angled under the drift, that flag waved all winter until the melt allowed them to see the jeep and dig it out.
My point is that even in severe snow conditions like that, the plow drivers did not bury the throats of driveways nor side streets. If you got your driveway clean and could get your car out of the garage, then the access to the cleared roadway was there.
I make it a point to clear my drive, my walk and mailbox, provide access for the meter readers to my backyard, and shovel or snowblow, at no charge, for several seniors around town who are unable to clear their own areas.
I don't understand why the city plow trucks can't do a better job. I do have several suggestions though:
• Send them for training up along the Great Lakes; Erie, Pa.; Buffalo, N.Y.; or any small upstate town in the Finger Lakes area of New York.
• Appoint a neighborhood watch to see who the good and/or poor plowers are. Call in regarding poor service.
• Have everyone who qualifies for the senior citizen or disabled resident City service for clearing the driveway opening, call in and get registered on the list so that a city plow has to clean up what a city plow has created.
• Sign up with the American Legion and Sheriff's office snow removal program for the seniors and disabled.
• If it is a city "policy" to plow driveways shut, not just the operator taking the proper time to adjust the angle of his or her blades, then change the policy, or change the city fathers, council members, city manager, or snowplowing supervisor until driveways remain clear or are reopened by the city.
• Bring back the old guys with the horses and v-plows letting them clean the streets like they did in the old days when both the travel lanes and the on street parking was clear. Ask anyone older than 70 who owned businesses downtown about this.
• Purchase a snowblower or ATV and keep track of the hours, fuel that you use to clean the street area. Then submit a bill in the spring or whenever you need some overtime income. Or hire service that will clean to your specifications and submit those costs.
• Record and submit a bill for all the lawn mower blades you'll need after wrecking your blades on the chip and seal rocks that are now in your front lawn from pushing/blowing the snow from the streets into it.
• Buy a new four-wheel drive so you can get to the plowed sections and then request a reduction in your city tax burden. All the new owner's taxes on those new vehicles could also pay for sending the drivers to Plowing Etiquette School.
What it really comes down to is current practices are unacceptable, and should be changed.
When, and not if, the normal February "melt" occurs, the present snow piles clogging the gutters and blocking access to the storm drains will present us with another driving hazard i.e. flooded intersections, thick ice at the same intersections plus new overtime costs to clean up a preventable problem.
The current practices with 6 to 9 inches of deep pushed snow border along the travel sections are a safety hazard to anyone with a 2-wheel and/or front-wheel drive vehicle. If the temperature drops, it becomes a semi- permanent barrier until spring. Everyone knows if you don't get it cleaned out before it freezes solid, you won't. At least not without a heart attack or a two-stage snowblower or an ATV with a blade.
Most vehicles are designed, and manufactured, to handle 3 to 6 inches of fallen snow providing there isn't an ice build-up underneath. Most vehicles cannot handle 6 to 9 inches of compacted snow unless they are AWD or 4-wheel drive.
Instead of plowing 1 to 4 inches on weekends/holidays at an increased taxpayer expense, why not plow during the normal workweek, normal hours 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and remove the melting ice/slush off the roadways so it isn't a rutted ice skating rink?
I'm sure that someone in the system has a solution. Find it and implement it.
Then guys like me won't get our underwear in a knot and write to the paper.