The challenging part of any ice or snow storm for road crews that don’t deal with such dilemmas on a regular basis is that no two events are ever the same. There are similarities, of course, but the storms that hit the island during a 10-day period – separated by only a couple of days – created a phenomenon that was resoundingly unique, according to those involved in cleaning it up.
The city’s Public Works Department thought it had things under control after a few inches of snow fell earlier last week. Cold temperatures, however, kept the roads icy long enough for them to turn extremely treacherous when about a foot of snow fell during a 36-hour period over the weekend.
As a result, all of the department’s 35 employees took turns working 12-hour shifts around the clock from early Saturday afternoon to Monday noon, trying to keep the island’s primary roads open to traffic. They also served as “point” for Bainbridge police and power company employees, both of whom were also out in force. It was a hectic 48 hours, especially for those in the front lines.
Lance Newkirk, deputy director for city Public Works, said he was “so proud of these guys for the amazing job they did.” He said their tireless dedication to the mission may have made it all look easy, but it wasn’t.
“The cold weather and precipitation of the prededing storm didn’t thaw right away, so the roads were already frozen when all that snow came,” Newkirk said. “The new snow bonded to the asphalt surface, which meant it accumulated immediately. Typically we have some time before new snow accumulates and we can start squeegeeing it off. But this bonded so fast that it was impossible to break it up as long as it stayed cold. It’s just beginning to thaw now,” he said Tuesday, “but only on the main roads.”
By mid-week, the city was beginning to spread gravel on more of the secondary roads in preparation for more precipitation as the cold weather continued through the week. The good news is that there were few accidents as active islanders gradually became acclimated to the snow, and those who weren’t prepared, generally stayed home.