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Though the Township pays particular attention to weather forecasts in advance of storm events, the exact timing of the onset of an event is hard to pin down. In several cases, forecasted events haven’t even materialized. In many other cases, unanticipated or unforecasted problems arise. The bottom line is: forecasts are often unreliable in various ways.
In cases where forces are mobilized at off hours, there is frequently a delay between the onset of hazardous conditions and treatment of those conditions at every spot on every Township road. Motorists are advised to drive according to the conditions, even after treatment has begun.
Crew members called in or held over are entitled to a minimum amount of overtime whether or not they are utilized. Because of this, the Director of Public Works or Designee are careful to ensure that a need does or will exist before mobilizing forces to the degree deemed necessary.
Pretreating road surfaces with salt too far in advance of an anticipated event is generally not effective. First, because of the uncertainty of the timing and nature of the event, the salt treatment may have been unnecessary, or could be neutralized (e.g., blown off the road) during a protracted delay of the onset of frozen precipitation. It is usually more beneficial for road clearing efforts for the salt to be spread when and after it is clearly needed.
The State of Pennsylvania DOT is responsible for snow and ice removal efforts on the following roads in Forks Township:
The State of Pennsylvania utilizes their own fleet of plow trucks to accomplish this effort.
There will be times when storms will exceed our capacity to keep up with the resources we have, or where equipment breakdowns will diminish our ability to respond. In these circumstances we will adjust and apply our resources to the effort in the best way possible.
There may be a reasonable explanation for observed differences in road conditions. The condition of roads during and after snow removal operations is affected by many factors. These include: type of precipitation or icing condition, rate of precipitation, air temperature, road surface temperature, change of temperatures during and/or after the storm, timing of start of snow/ice control operations, frequency of plowing passes, type of material spread, amount of material spread, when material was spread, amount of sun exposure, and amount of vehicular traffic. Motorists may see a relative difference in conditions based on one or more of these factors.
Poor road conditions during storm events are usually most related a rate of snowfall that exceed the crew’s capacity to keep up. Poor road conditions after storm events are usually most related to temperature dynamics and lack of sun exposure. Also, certain factors may have positive or negative affects depending on other conditions. For instance, heavier traffic tends to assist clearing efforts during snow events, but under certain temperature conditions, traffic during a storm could cause packing of the snow into a layer resistive to plowing. So, though heavier traffic tends to ultimately help with road clearing, this is not always the case during a storm. After a storm, traffic tends to accelerate melting and clearing of the road. The higher traffic volume explains why, in most circumstances, main roads will remain clearer during a storm and clear faster after a storm.
This does not mean that particular problems in our approach do not arise. The Forks Township Director of Public Works takes responsibility first for those problems that may be related to overall operations, such as timing of the start of removal. Decisions and judgments in these areas involve several important factors, such as public safety, cost, and contractual obligations. The Forks Township Public Works Director and/or his Designee take responsibility for any concerns residents may have with how snow plow drivers do their job. Residents should not confront drivers directly, but contact the Public Works Department at 610-438-2670 to file any complaint. The Director and/or his designee will receive the complaint and investigate and take action accordingly.
Because of the magnitude of main roads assigned, plow drivers frequently cannot get to every high traffic area before conditions deteriorate. And in particularly bad conditions (e.g., high snowfall rate), plow drivers may not even be able to keep up. In spite of continuous attention to their routes, conditions will deteriorate quickly between passes. Especially in these cases, the residential areas can expect to receive less attention until the storm lets up. As a result, the final condition of the residential areas may be worse than the main roads.
During storm events, the two-way radio is continuously monitored at the Public Works Department to communicate with the drivers. The Police and Communication Center monitor the same radio frequency and communicate with the PW Department as necessary. Thus, if a special need arises, drivers can be vectored in to spot treat the location. There have been cases when drivers have been pulled off their route(s) to aid another driver in such circumstances. Obviously, if this occurs, the assisting drivers will get behind in their own route(s).
Equipment is well maintained and operated, however, breakdowns do occur. Because of the number of trucks on the road during major events, it is typical that one or more will breakdown during the course of a long storm event. In these cases plowing delays are inevitable, and can be large depending on the magnitude of the equipment problem(s) and whether the unit can be repaired and return to its route.
Also, drivers need reasonable time to eat meals. Drivers seek opportune times to eat, if storm conditions allow, so that route conditions suffer as little as possible. In extended storms, drivers will need down time to rest. Drivers will typically not rest unless the event exceeds 36 hours, opting rather to stay on their routes to keep up with the storm.
Like all other vehicles, plow trucks are bound by posted speed limits. Beyond this, the goal is to get the snow off the street as expeditiously as possible. The speed of the truck is directly related to any combination of the following factors:
The plow truck must travel faster to throw heavier and/or deeper snow over higher berms. Though within speed limits, there may the appearance that trucks casting snow are going fast, especially when plowing slushy accumulations.
Township crews are only mobilized at such time as they are needed for snow or ice removal on Township roads, and they are released as soon as road conditions allow. No effort is made to extend unnecessary or gratuitous overtime to employees. Public Works forces are mobilized to deal with real road hazards, as typically witnessed by on-duty Police Officers or other emergency services personnel and passed on to the Communication Center for notification of cognizant Public Works personnel.
There are two major explanations for continued plowing after the snow has ended.
It may be helpful to know that for an average winter weather event involving overtime, Forks Township Public Works forces provide snow/ice removal at a cost of less than $50 per mile of road, which includes all efforts through the course of the storm. This compares very favorably with an average cost of about $50 - $75 for private contractor driveway plowing, which typically amounts to one pass in and one out in thirty minutes or less.
As a rule of thumb, drivers generally need about 4 hours to complete plowing after the snow quits. This includes pushing back the snow to the gutter line. Thus, several passes are needed to accomplish this. Again, main roads receive priority attention, and, particularly in large storms, they may be plowed more often to keep them open.
This is not always a problem, but can be a significant problem if certain conditions prevail. Sometimes conditions at the road surface promote snow packing, a situation where a hardened layer of frozen precipitation adheres firmly to the asphalt. Such conditions include transition from freezing rain to sleet to snow. This layer may also develop if the temperature drops rapidly during or right after the snow fall, and the residual salt is inadequate to prevent freeze-up. When this hard-packed layer exists, even the Townships’ heaviest scraper plows tend to ride up onto it, rather than scrape it off. In such cases, several days of sunshine or above freezing temperatures may be needed to loosen up and disperse this layer. Department personnel may have to return to retreat the areas in the interim, even several days after the event.
Salt is applied during the initial pass on the route to provide a base to prevent bonding of ice and snow to pavement. Once ice forms and becomes bonded to the pavement, it is very difficult to remove until favorable conditions prevail (e.g., warm temperatures, sunshine). Additional applications of salt are made as needed during the storm to prevent a bond and to improve safety and traction. A final treatment may be applied at the final pass to aid in melting snow and ice and prevents melting snow from turning to ice before the roads dry.
The amount of salt put down is a function of the nature of the storm event. In some cases, when air or surface temperatures allow, little salt may be required. In other cases, especially in icing/sleeting situations or protracted snowstorms, salt may be continuously spread to keep the roads passable. In most case a white residual will be evident after remnants of snow and ice melt and roads are dry. Department personnel have no interest in applying too little or too much salt. If drivers apply too little salt, the roads will not clear. Too much salt translates into unnecessary expense.
The goal of plowing is to clear as much of the road pavement width as possible for two-way traffic, to provide adequate drainage for subsequent melting and/or rain, and to allow access to the mailboxes by postal carriers.
Snow is never deliberately placed in driveways. Snow cast into driveways and onto sidewalks is an unfortunate byproduct of a very necessary service we provide. When we plow a street we are simply moving the snow that is in the street off to the side of the street. There is no useful method which allows operators to stop the windrow of snow coming off of the end of the plow. The greater the amount of snow, the more snow that is deposited on the side. For example, if a 12" snowfall is pushed straight to the side of the street from the center line of a 28'-wide street, there will most likely be a 4' high berm.
Because snow removal includes pushing the snow berm back to the curbline, the final pass may occur some time after the center of the road had been plowed open. Those residents who completed shoveling before the plow makes its final pass may find additional snow in the end of their driveways. One suggestion to reduce the amount of snow pushed onto your driveway is to shovel snow near the parkway to the right side of your drive as you face the street. This reduces the amount of snow being pushed onto your drive. Ultimately, the Town does not assume the burden of removing snow from the ends of driveways that is placed there as the result of snowplowing efforts.
Plowing cul-de-sacs is one the most challenging operations during a snow storm. Most properties on cul-de-sacs have frontages which are narrower than lots on a straight street. Therefore, snow must be pushed into a smaller space. Cul-de-sacs without islands contain even more area which needs to be plowed and, as a result, even more snow has to be moved to the side.
It is impossible to have the truck push snow into the center of cul-de-sacs for several reasons. Trucks are not designed or built to be articulated enough to push snow to the center; this applies to cul-de-sacs with or without islands. Centrifugal force causes the snow to move off the plow toward the outside of the circle. Also the center of most cul-de-sacs is an inappropriate spot for snow, not to mention icing problems that would result from melting snow in the center of cul-de-sacs.
Drivers do their best to avoid plowing cul-de-sac driveways in with excessive snow. But this requires finding open spaces between driveways in the cul-de-sac to place the snow. Depending on driveway locations, this may result in large mounds of snow in only one or a few spots in some cul-de-sacs.
We plow the streets curb to curb, or as close as we can get. Whatever snow is left in front of mailboxes is the responsibility of the property owner to remove or at least make the mailbox accessible to the mail carrier. If we made a mistake and left an unreasonable amount of snow on the edge of the street, we will return and cut back as much as we can. Residents should evaluate the location of their mailboxes. According to postal guidelines, mailbox door faces should be nine (9) inches from the road edge to avoid contact with the plow; the bottom of the mailbox should be between 42" and 48" above the road surface. If your mailbox is installed per postal guidelines, very little further clearing effort on your part should be necessary at your mailbox to provide access for the postal carrier.
If the piles cause a line of sight problem, the DPW will remove the snow to the extent the line of sight problem is eliminated. Following large snow storms, this may take some time and depend upon reports received from motorists to alert us to a particular problem intersection.
The DPW, but any assistance by abutting property owners would help and would be appreciated. If a blocked catch basin is a problem for you, you may contact the DPW.
This usually happens for 2 reasons:
Streets that are less than two travel lanes wide will be widened after the storm as crews and equipment are available. In some cases this may result in some snow being cast back onto already cleared sidewalks and driveways or placed back onto grassed areas.
Mailboxes may be damaged by direct contact with the plow or by the snow cast by the plow. The Public Works Department will repair damaged mailboxes only if damage is the result of direct contact with the plow; damage resulting from contact by only slush or snow will not be repaired, nor will damage resulting from improper installation, placement, or deteriorated condition of its post or support structure.
Accordingly, residents should evaluate the location and condition of their mailboxes. Mailboxes should be securely fastened to a sturdy post which is solidly anchored in the ground; residents should choose a mailbox assembly that will withstand exposure to the substantial weight of a heavy snow cast from a large plow. According to postal guidelines, mailbox door faces should be nine (9) inches from the road edge to avoid physical contact with the plow; the bottom of the mailbox should be between 42" and 48" above the road surface.
If damage is sustained to your mailbox during a plowing event, you may contact the Public Works Department at 610-438-2670. Department personnel will inspect the damage and evaluate the situation according to the above guidelines.
Curbing and driveway lip damage is a normal result of winter season plowing efforts. The Department has no intention or desire to cause this damage, since damaged areas must be attended to in the spring. However, due to the nature of plowing efforts, some damage is inevitable. The amount of damage may vary greatly depending on the nature of the winter. In heavy winters, just the higher frequency of snow removal efforts increase exposure of curbing and driveways to damage. Also, in winters where snow is preceded by a consistent sub-freezing period, the depth of frost in the ground reduces curb damage by providing added stability behind the curb. If frost is minimal or not present (which is typical especially early and late in the season), the risk and incidence of damage is greater.
It is generally essential for drivers to push snow back close to the curb to keep drainage areas open and to prepare for further snow events. Therefore, drivers cannot avoid close calls with curb contact. There are many areas that are chronically vulnerable to curb damage, such as cul-de-sacs. It would not be uncommon for these areas to see damage more regularly.
If curbing along your property sustains damage, you may notify the Public Works Department at 610-438-2760 to report it. Your address will be added to a running repair list that will be used to track repairs. A list of location and length of damage is made to incorporate in the master repair list. Repairs typically commence late in the Spring and may continue into the Fall.
Residents are advised that the placement of objects in Township roads and Township road right-of-ways are prohibited. These objects can be anything, but frequently are permanent or portable basketball hoops, fences, trees or shrubs. Residents are to receive written permission from the Public Works Director for placing any obstruction or object in a Township right-of-way. In particular, basketball hoops have caused damage to Town plow trucks during snow removal operations, and should not be anywhere near road right-of-ways during the winter season.
Contact the DPW by telephone at 610-438-2670. Describe the damage you believe we caused, the location on your property, and when you believe it occurred. We will investigate and if we determine we are responsible we will place it on a list to be repaired. If we believe we are responsible we will let you know.
When unsafe road conditions exist, residents should expect a delay in collection of their trash and recyclables. The Public Works Director or his Designee will authorizes such delay. The collection contractor will resume collection as soon as conditions allow. If conditions dictate, collection may be deferred. In these cases, and if conditions improve adequately, the contractor will make up the collection on the next day. If service is shut down, the Township will notify several local media outlets along with a notification through the Nixle System. In any case, residents may call Township at 610-438-2670 for status of garbage collection.
There are a few important ways residents can help snow removal operations.