City and county crews working to clear snowy roads - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

City and county crews working to clear snowy roads

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Emergency responders and road crews are working to keep us safe as the snow returns to our area.  Fresh snow fell overnight, which means slippery roads and potential for accidents.

The Elkhart County Sheriff's Department says Deputies are continuing to work crashes due to the slippery roadways.  Since 6:00am Wednesday morning, they have responded to 25 vehicle crashes, 34 slide-offs, and 14 additional calls for assistance from drivers.

Chief Bill Thompson with St. Joseph County Police says they know what to expect thanks to all the snow we've had this year.  "We always know which areas need the extra attention," Thompson says.  "Between us and State Highway and county, we know how to handle it."

Even with the harsh winter and dangerous roads, the department hasn't had a lot of overtime problems.  Thompson says that's because they have shifted plain clothes personnel that normally work behind a desk to patrolling and handling calls.  They've also shifted some people's schedules around to adjust.

The Mishawaka Street Department isn't so lucky.  Assistant Street Commissioner Tim Ryan says they are already at the overtime level that they were at for all of 2013.  You could get the leaders of all the street departments together to commiserate about that. Elkhart has spent $100,000 on overtime this winter, mainly because snow storms have fallen on weekends, which has also hurt South Bend.

"Fortunately, we have some warmer weather. We're looking forward to this weekend, so we may not have to work too much overtime out of this storm, believe it or not," says South Bend Street Department Manager, John Pemberton, Jr.

Street Departments aren't worrying about budgets right now, though.  They're focusing on getting crews on the roads clearing snow.

Ryan says they normally run three shifts during snow events, but with the fast dumping expected tomorrow, they are ready to keep the overnight shift late or call the day shift in early to overlap coverage.

Mishawaka has more than 20 trucks in the Street Department. If they need to, they can call in vehicles from the Sewer and Water Departments to bring that number to about 40. Still, he admits they won't be able to keep up with all the snow that's coming as it's falling.

Elkhart will have 16 trucks on the road working 12-hour shifts starting Tuesday night, and in South Bend, 25-30 trucks will get things started when the snow starts falling. "They come in at 7, and then we work around the clock basically until we get all the snow removed," says South Bend Street Department Manager, John Pemberton, Jr.

Mishawaka has 165 miles of road to plow, but it ends up being a lot more when you realize a truck can only plow one lane at a time.  Ryan says the Mishawaka actually has 400-450 "lane miles" to plow following each snow.

The Streets Department is being proactive, though.  They had trucks treating the roads with a salt brine and beet juice slurry Tuesday afternoon.  The mixture won't melt the snow fully, but it does make it easier to plow.  Mishawaka has been using it for the past three years, and Ryan says they are looking into making it themselves in the future to save on costs.

Even with all the preemptive measures and hard work from city crews, roads are treacherous.  If you are heading out, Ryan urges you to drive slow and give plows plenty of room to do their work.

INDOT says its northwest district alone has put in nearly 110,000 hours this season. Matt Deitchley with INDOT says the department has about 170 crews to run snow routes, and they'll be on the roads 24-7 until the snow is cleared.

In a normal year, INDOT uses about 289,500 tons of salt. This year, they've already used about 403,000 thousand.

In a typical year, they use about 3.4 million gallons of the de-icer. This year, they used about 4.6 million gallons.

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