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Missoula road crews busy after early winter storm

Early winter storm poses challenges
Posted at 7:39 PM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 21:46:00-04

MISSOULA — Following Monday’s storm -- and the season's early winter weather -- the city of Missoula is doubling down on how it manages and cares for the roads.

MTN News spoke with Missoula Public Works Streets Deputy Director Brian Hensel who says his staff that is responsible for plowing the roads is also handling leaf collection. Those dual tasks can be especially difficult during weeks like this, when winter weather comes a little early.

“Well, yesterday was certainly a struggle. We had our crews out working as soon as we could get everybody rolling,” Hensel said.

The city of Missoula started leaf cleaning on Monday, the same day as this unexpected winter event, "I could've had 100 snowplows and staff and we wouldn't have been caught up,” Hensel told MTN News.

There are 33 full-time crew members to de-ice and sand the roadways, and four of them are new this year.

Hensel says crews focus clearing priority roads first -- which include bus routes, hills and those close to schools. The crews only de-ice or sand approaches to intersections, the curves, corners, and hills.

"Straight stretches on streets, you'll notice there still is ice when you travel, but we want to try and get those areas where people slow down or come to a stop,” Hensel explained."

When it's colder than about 14 degrees, or really windy, crews opt to use sand on the roads. "When we get that cold temperature and the wind, the liquid de-icer is not effective,” Hensel said.

He says normally leaf collection has to stop if it snows, but since it was too cold to de-ice on Monday, crews were still able to collect leaves in some areas.

Hensel is reminding drivers to watch for shaded areas and give people in front of you extra space.

“This first snow event I know is difficult for the public. Everyone is not used to driving in slick conditions, but I would caution drive slow, and don't tailgate, allow yourself extra time to travel, and just be very careful,” Hensel advised.

The city has about 17 plows, but Hensel hopes they won't have to use them again for a few more weeks. He also told MTN News it’s too early in the year to know if early snow will affect the plowing budget.