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High traffic and emergency service routes top priority

Because none of us have had to deal with large amounts of snow in the past five years, there has been some question as to the priority of snow removal.

12/13/16 (Tue)

Blow’n snow . . . Dale Hanson throws snow away from the Kenmare airport Thursday afternoon. Hanson, a retired city employee, is back on temporary duty to help get the city opened up after heavy snow two weeks ago and a blizzard last week.

By Marvin Baker

Because none of us have had to deal with large amounts of snow in the past five years, there has been some question as to the priority of snow removal.

Everyone wants to have their driveway, parking lot or street cleared first, but it doesn’t quite work that way, according to retired Kenmare city employee Dale Hanson.

Hanson, who retired in July after spending 30 years with the city of Kenmare, is back on temporary duty. He was usually out by 4 a.m., clearing snow following a snowfall or wind event.

He’s operated blades, pay loaders, skid steer loaders and tractors to get snow out of the path of those who need it most.

Since the first snowfall on Nov. 28 that brought 18.5 inches to Kenmare, Hanson has been brought back on staff to help clear snow from the city streets.

He is one of three people who have been busy for the better part of two weeks clearing snow from Kenmare’s city streets. He is joined by Chris Golde and public works director Rob Shelton.

He says the priority boils down to what machine the person is operating, but as far as a staff, the emergency service areas and downtown are cleared first.

That means the ambulance garage, the fire department and the hospital and square are cleared before the rest of the community.

“The loader and Bobcat work the ambulance, fire department, hospital and downtown square,” Hanson said. “The blade will do Central Avenue, Division Street and Seventh Avenue by the school. Sometimes we’ll jump back and forth depending on the situation.”

That situation could be any number of scenarios he’s seen in his career, but regardless of circumstances, emergency services are first in line.

“Anything that has to do with emergency comes first,” Hanson said. “That’s before any residential areas will be cleared.”

Downtown is normally cleared of snow early, too, in order to get ahead of the numerous vehicles that arrive and park around the square.

On Thursday, Hanson was clearing snow off the runway at Kenmare airport, a subsequent priority unless someone has to be airlifted by ambulance to another hospital. In that case, the airport would be switched to high priority.

Lots of calls to City Hall

City auditor Marki Ellis has taken a lot of phone calls since it first began snowing on Nov. 28, but they’ve mostly been questions and not complaints.

“It’s been a little hectic,” she said. “People were pretty good. They understood the weather and they were mostly curiosity calls.”

Shelton echoed Hanson’s comments saying it’s most efficient to follow the protocol on the city’s snow emergency removal routes.

“We do Central Avenue because we can catch downtown, the ambulance, the fire hall and the school all in one shot,” he said. “Then we’ll go up to the high school, so that way we at least have a loop in town and in and out of town.”

According to Kenmare Fire Chief Nate Condit, there have been some discussions inside fire department circles about the top priorities in snow removal.

The fire department doesn’t necessarily have to be the No. 1 priority, unless of course, there is a building on fire and the department is unable to get to it otherwise.

“I’m currently working on finding out what the protocol is,” Condit said. “Regardless, it’s emergency services and fire lanes and downtown.”

He said the department has been lucky the past couple of years and hasn’t had to deal with an emergency during a snow event.

Thus, it really wasn’t discussed much until last Wednesday’s fire department meeting when it was brought up.

Longtime firefighter Chuck Leet, called the last two weeks of snow and blizzard conditions a double-edged sword regarding the priorities of snow removal.

“If 38 firefighters are trying to get to the hall and if that back lot is full of snow, that delays us in getting to the scene,” Leet said. “But people have to get to work (downtown) too.”

Leet recalled a situation several years ago in which the department was called out in the middle of the night and snowplows hadn’t yet cleared a path. He said that was a real challenge.

Otherwise, he doesn’t remember a precarious situation in the past 20 years, at least that the Kenmare department has had to deal with.

Leet said, “This puts quite a burden on the city and schools. It’s a lot of responsibility.”

Similar priorities in Berthold, Carpio and Donnybrook

The situation is nearly identical in Berthold, Carpio and Donnybrook. Emergency services, then residential areas.

In Donnybrook, Larry Goettle cleans the main avenues and streets. That includes the downtown area where fire trucks and equipment are located.

Thus, if an emergency arose, the department would be able to get out of the building quickly and on to U.S. Highway 52, which is cleaned by the Department of Transportation.

In Carpio, Main Street and the fire hall are essentially a simultaneous effort, according to Mayor and Fire Chief Kalvin Myers.

“We usually hit Main Street, then the fire hall,” Myers said. “We have been doing okay so people can get around, but it’s been a challenge keeping up. If we keep getting snow, I don’t know where we’re going to put it.”

Because of his unique position and because Carpio public works director Tony Schell is also on the fire department, the city and fire department are essentially interchangeable.

That means the equipment is at the ready and if the department is called out in the night of a snow event such as last week’s blizzard, someone will jump on the city’s pay loader and clear a path for the department so the trucks don’t have to push through snow drifts.

In Berthold, it’s much like Donnybrook. The fire hall and community ambulance are close enough to downtown where the snow is going to get removed about the same time, according to Fire Chief Richard Blahut.

“The central buildings and paths are cleared first, then the roadways are opened,” he said. “The county has done its share so we’re moving pretty good in Berthold. It looked rough Monday night (Dec. 5) and we were ready for the weather, but we didn’t have to deal with it.”

“Knock on wood,” Blahut said. “There was an alert on U.S. Highway 2 that two miles west was susceptible to zero visibility, but otherwise we haven’t had to deal with any emergency situations.”

He said on Monday night, he and public works director Gary Rademacher were ready to go in case an emergency would develop.

“Gary and I hung around for a while,” he said. “There were numerous cars in the ditch but nobody was injured.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!