Almost two weeks ago, Corvallis saw the heaviest snowfall in the last 20 years; some places had almost 9 inches of the powdery white abomination, but it would seem that the City of Corvallis wasn’t quite prepared for so many snowmen. Many Corvallis residents were upset and faced great difficulty commuting in the snow. Several Corvallis officials involved, however, maintain that Corvallis was doing all it could to clean up the mess that nature dumped on us.
Speaking with Jim Patterson, our City Manager, was eye opening to the fact that the City of Corvallis is truly not prepared for storms of this magnitude. Generally, Corvallis only sees a skiff of snow, which is easily manageable with the use of lightweight snowplows and a bit of sand dusting on the worst parts. These smaller snowplows are not equipped to handle the large amount of snow that we received this last week. Also, near-zero temperatures for multiple days supposedly caused the machinery that is used to sand to freeze. The sand mixture itself was damp and freezing together in clumps, making it almost impossible to be expelled from the sanding apparatus. The city will be having a de-briefing in the near future to discuss plans for events like this one. Plans will include the possibility of purchasing more heavy-duty snowplows and other equipment.
Mary Steckel, our Public Works Director pointed out that the plows that the city has are designed to move snow, not break through ice, so if they had been used, they only would have led to a traction free, slick sheet of ice for motorists to drive on. Plowing at the beginning of the snowfall was difficult because it fell during commuting hours, and the priority was to keep the roads to the hospital cleared of snow.
This is not to say that the conditions on the roads were totally unmanageable. For example, Albany, Lebanon, Sweet Home, and Salem all had clear roads by the end of the first weekend. The question all of Corvallis is asking themselves is why these cities had roads to drive on and not ours. In the words of City Manager Jim Patterson “We can still do better. I think it’s reasonable for the public to expect that we can do better.”