More than three weeks after a massive snowstorm marooned Thanksgiving travelers and slathered Fort Collins with more than 16 inches of flakes, city streets staff are still dealing with the aftermath: blocked bike lanes, blackened crusts of ice on residential streets and an overdrawn 2019 budget thanks to a succession of fall snows.
Fort Collins has clocked nearly 3 feet of snow since October, roughly double its seasonal normal of about 17.5 inches. The Thanksgiving week storm on Nov. 25 and 26 was Fort Collins’ heaviest snow storm in about 6½ years.
And that’s all before winter’s arrival.
Streets crews took the rare step of plowing residential streets last month, to some residents’ relief and others’ dismay. Residential plowing involves one pass-through on all residential streets, but plows don’t go curb to curb, so windrows of snow on some streets frustrated residents.
Plowing residential streets comes with a heavy price tag, and the streets department is on a budget like the rest of us, so chief Larry Schneider generally reserves the strategy for storms that deliver more than a foot of snow or block access to main or collector streets.
The last time the city plowed residential streets was for a storm in February 2016.
Residential plowing cost about $76,000 for the Thanksgiving week storm, which cost the city more than $804,000 between Nov. 25 and Dec. 13. The city has exceeded its 2019 snow removal budget of about $1.42 million because of unusually heavy fall snows, Schneider said. The magnitude of the overage wasn’t available upon this writing.
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Crews got the bulk of the snow off the roads and residential streets by the morning of Nov. 27, but freezing overnight temperatures and vehicle traffic have hardened the remnants into stubborn ice sheets.
“The vehicle traffic flattens it and polishes it off until it becomes a glaze of ice,” Schneider said.
Streets crews have spent much of the the last week using motor-graders to cut ice and remove snow from bike lanes, sidewalk and heavily shaded streets. All the snow and ice is hauled to the city’s dump site off East Vine Drive.
As for the winter ahead, place your bets now. Seasonal forecasts run the gamut from slightly warmer temperatures than normal (National Weather Service) to roughly average temperatures (Weather.com) to frigid and snowy (Farmers’ Almanac, although it’s worth noting meteorologists are critical of the almanac’s forecasting capabilities).
Schneider is sure of one thing:
“It’s going to be a long winter,” he said.
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. To make this work possible, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan.
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