Winter storm Hercules brought with it almost a foot of snow and frigid temperatures, and the Londonderry Department of Public Works (DPW) was ready to keep the streets passable. With the wind chill factored in, temperatures ranged from the single digits to below zero.
According to DPW Director Janusz Czyzowski, crews worked through the storm. There are no shifts – “the crews are on a lot of coffee,” he said.
The first storm of 2014 arrived Thursday, Jan. 2, and continued through Friday morning, Jan. 3. School was cancelled both days. The snow, light and fluffy and dry, measured a foot or more in some areas and barely there in others because of the wind.
But storms are what the department prepares for.
Salt is always a lingering thought on Czyzowski’s mind, he said. “We budgeted enough for the winter and as long as winter stays the way it is right now, we should be all right,” he said. “We try to budget for 20 storms a year because that’s what we get on average. If we get more and heavier storms, we might be short. Last year we did fine with the budget, which for us is for salt and hired contractors to help us, and for the snow overtime.”
He said the town has received 38 inches of snow since the season began, and 1,700 tons of salt have been used to treat the roads so far.
“We still have a January thaw to come,” Czyzowski joked.
Czyzowski said he doesn’t expect the trend will be to continue with storms such as the one that hit last week.
“Counting from the first storm on Nov. 23 until this storm, we have had 38 inches of snow,” he said. “We keep detailed data on the storms each year. Last year we had 82 inches in the season; in 2008 we had 103 inches of snow. One year we had 17 storms and another year, 2008, we had 28 storms, but on average it’s about 20 storms with about 73 inches.”
Czyzowski said that last year, FY 13, the town used 3,400 tons of salt.
“This storm gave us the problem of low temperatures,” he said. “Under 10 degrees, the salt doesn’t work, so we have to wait until the temperature rises or we will be wasting it. When temperatures get as low as they were the other day, we plow, but a hard pack forms and we try to scrape as best as we can, but the temperature has to get to the point where the salt will create the brine that gets between the snow pack and the road surface so we can remove it with the plow.”
Czyzowski said that sometimes by the time a plow driver completes his route, the beginning of his route looks as if he hadn’t been there yet.
“We have 180 miles of roads in Londonderry, and it takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours to complete a run,” Czyzowski said.
Residents can help DPW by picking up their recycling and trash barrels from in front of snow banks.
“The arm of the trash truck reaches 8 feet, so if the residents could clear their driveway and at the end, clear off enough space to put the trash receptacles at the end of the driveway and not in the street in front of the snow bank, it would be better for the plow operators. There is also a parking ban during the winter, so please put all cars in the driveway,” Czyzowski said.
According to Finance Director Sue Hickey, Public Works had $220,000 budgeted for salt and has “about $163,000 encumbered” – used and ready to be used – and about $40,000 remaining in the budget.
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport spokesman Tom Malafronte said the airport remained open through the storm and hasn’t closed due to weather in 23 years. The airport is mostly in Londonderry.
“The airlines are responsible for any flight cancellations or delays, not the airport,” he said. “That’s why we always advise people to contact their airline to see if there are any changes. Salt is not used on the runways because it is corrosive to the aluminum skin of the aircraft, so we use potassium acetate for runways. The airport is responsible for the roads leading to the airport, the airport road surfaces, runways, ramps and the terminal facilities. The airlines are responsible for the aircraft.”