FAIRBANKS — The city is running blades, graders and dump trucks day and night to clean up after the latest spurt of unusual weather. While it is working to clear roads and neighborhoods, its biggest priority is to avoid spring flooding.
“If it happened early in the winter, we would have immediately gone and plowed all the neighborhood streets. We’re so close to springtime now, we’re doing strictly snow removal to eliminate flooding potential,” said Brad Carlson, general foreman for the city of Fairbanks.
Last week, a storm that dropped more than a foot and a half of snow was followed by 50 mph winds and drifting snow.
Now crews are focused on removing snow berms (which block drains) to prevent spring flooding.
Neighborhood and side streets will be a little rough over the next couple of weeks. Crews are removing snow from main roads, like the Old Steese Highway and Cushman Street, at night and make their way through subdivisions during the day. They will continue this routine until the last weekend in March, when they expect snow to begin melting.
“If it melts early, we’re going to have a lot of mess and puddles,” Carlson said.
The city typically staffs eight workers at night and 12 to 14 during the day on four 10-hour shifts.
After the storm, it added three workers to each shift and bumped up to five 10-hour days.
“They’re doing a bang-up job,” city engineer Mike Schmetzer said.
The weather was no big surprise to city officials.
Fairbanks is still several inches below its yearly average of about 60 inches.
“We’re fairly average right now. The last few years were just incredibly low,” Schmetzer said.
However, the big dump in February was out of character for Fairbanks.
“Normally nature feeds it to us pretty slowly,” he said.
The splotchy snowfall won’t have a major cost impact.
“We’ll be able to absorb this in our normal budget,” Carlson said.
While the timing of the storm is a challenge, it doesn’t even compare to the November rainstorm, from which roads and storm drains are still covered in ice.
“This is much easier to deal with,” he said.
Contact staff writer Molly Rettig at 459-7590.
WHEN WILL THEY GET TO YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
Weeks Field (completed by noon on Tuesday)
Taku and Riverview (Ivy and Sunset only)
Week of March 7
Week of March 14
Week of March 21
Week of March 28
Bjerremark (subdivision was plowed and picked up just before the Feb. 20-21 snow event, so it is at the end)
Peger Lakes (subdivision has been plowed but left toward the end because roads have more berm room)
• Night crews will remove snow on Cowles, 23rd, Old Steese, Lathrop, Wilbur, Chena Industrial Area and downtown core roads like Barnette, Cushman, Lacey and Noble.
— Molly Rettig