Blowing Snow

Paul Wiertsema uses his snowblower to clear a neighbor's driveway along Hilton Avenue Thursday, November 7, 2019. "I try to give back to the neighborhood community as much as I can," Wiertsema said, adding he regularly clears snow for several neighbors as well as clears sections of the public roadway to make it easier for him and his neighbors to get out. "I do what I can for the neighborhood," he added.

Despite difficulties with staffing, the city of Fairbanks will be able to staff a full day shift for snow removal starting Friday morning. After historically high snowfall Wednesday, city officials were both optimistic about newly hired temporary works and wary about the dangers of high snowfall.

The city still doesn’t have enough people to staff a night shift, however, according to City Communications Director Teal Soden, but they plan to begin recruiting for nighttime snow removal next week. She also mentioned that some of the city’s permanent employees would have to move to night shift, so that both shifts would have workers experienced in city snow removal.

Mayor Jim Matherly released a video Thursday afternoon giving some advice to residents and asking them for grace as the city works to keep the streets cleared.

“I’m gonna ask the public to do your best to be understanding. We want nothing more than to get rid of the snow, and it is bad in some areas,” he said.

Matherly said a recent story detailing the city’s struggle to staff for snow removal encouraged some people to apply for the open positions.

Soden said those who are interested in working for the city can go to the union hall.

“If they have experience and a CDL, they may just end up being pulled by the city,” she said. A CDL is a commercial driver's license.

It takes 15 people to run a full day shift. Operating Engineers Local 302 has supplied eight operators to run the large equipment, and the city has seven permanent employees. Soden said though city workers were already out plowing Thursday, there would be full day shifts both Friday and Saturday. The shifts run from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Soden said a few city employees got stuck in the snow on their way to work.

“We’re all dealing with the same thing, so we have sympathy for the residents,” she said.

Matherly advised residents to slow down when driving on snow-packed roads, turn their headlights on, brush the snow from the rears of their cars so rear lights are visible and to use their turn signals. Additionally, Matherly asked residents not to text while driving and to stay alert.

He also pointed out that while it is acceptable to push snow from the sidewalk onto the street, residents will incur a $200 fine for moving larger amounts of snow, as from a driveway, onto the street.

The city’s plows work on a set schedule, prioritizing “safety zones,” or routes to hospitals and schools and those used by police and fire. Main roads are only cleared at night and include: Cushman, Noble, Barnette, Cowles, and Lacey streets and the Old Steese Highway.

The residential snow removal schedule shifts each year and the latest version can be found here. Alaska Department of Transportation’s snow priority schedule can be found here.

Contact staff writer Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find her on Twitter @FDNMcity.