The city was not anticipating the rate or volume of snow that fell early Wednesday evening causing snowplowing problems and messy conditions on its streets.
City Director of Public Works Jim Weber said the city plans for snow this time of year, but it did not anticipate a storm that dumped almost 2 feet of snow in less than 24 hours.
With a couple of employees on vacation and the seasonal snowplowing crew already released for the winter, the unexpected heavy snow meant long hours for the city's snowplow drivers and roads that were not cleared as quickly as residents are accustomed to.
"The intensity and quantity of the snow caught everybody off guard and it created a hiccup of a problem," Weber said.
A street crew of about 10, using two plow trucks and three motor graders, worked from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Weber said. At 4 p.m., the city's full crew was sent home for the day. At that point, Weber said, the streets were clear and snow was melting when it hit the pavement.
"When the crew left at 4, the roads were still wet. It really didn't start accumulating until after that," Weber said.
Between 6 and 8 p.m., snow was coming down at about 2 inches an hour.
At 6 p.m., Weber said the decision was made to send out two plow trucks and to start calling the rest of the crew back for a midnight shift.
The two plow trucks worked for a few hours Wednesday night, concentrating primarily on keeping routes into the Yampa Valley Medical Center clear, which meant plowing Pine Grove and Mount Werner roads and Central Park Drive.
The second priority for the two-man crew was major connector roads such as Walton Creek, River and Fish Creek Falls roads, Hilltop Parkway and Seventh Street.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is responsible for clearing U.S. Highway 40, which includes Lincoln Avenue.
At midnight, a crew of 12 returned to the city's streets to clear roads by Thursday morning. By the time people woke up Thursday, they found clear streets once they had navigated out of their driveways, Weber said.
Although the storm happened during Steamboat schools' spring break, just two of the road crew were on vacation. The six to eight people the city hires seasonally to clear roads have been off since March, Weber said.
In a typical winter storm, Weber said the city would have used three to four plow trucks and motor graders -- and its seasonal workforce -- to clear the roads between 4 p.m. and midnight.
The city called two of its seasonal workers back in to help at midnight. The workers covered for the two crew members on vacation, Weber said.
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