General Question

Blackberry's avatar

I dont know how the snow plowing system works, could you explain it to me?

Asked by Blackberry (31878points) December 29th, 2010

I live in central Jersey, and I’ve never seen such half-ass snow plowing before. One street would be cleared, but they would miss two side streets or do none at all. What is the point of clearing a road, but not clearing the road that allows people to leave their houses? The plows were out and about, but were they just not doing anything?

Some main roads were not plowed until two days after it stopped snowing as well. So instead of just saying that people didn’t do their job, I’d like to fully understand the situation so I don’t make a poor judgment. So what are some reasons one town would do horribly plowing, and another was very efficient?

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16 Answers

DrewJ's avatar

I live in Central Jersey as well. I took a ride the other day and saw exactly what you’re talking about. Entire streets simply not plowed, leaving people stranded. I’m in Old Bridge, and things are fine here, but I took a look at some other towns like Little SIlver, Brick, Neptune…. they’re all a complete mess! I don’t know how the town gets away with it, I mean, what if there was a medical emergency, there would be no way of getting people to the hospital.

Anyway…. To turn this response into an answer…. It could be the budget cuts. However, I’m not sure how that would explain why some towns did an awesome job with the roads and some acted as though it never snowed. I mean, even here in Old Bridge where I think the roads are the best I’ve seen, they’re considerably worse than they’ve ever been after a snow storm. It’s gotta be budget cuts. New Jersey is in bad financial shape.

AmWiser's avatar

Lack of manpower also has a lot to do with which streets get plowed in a timely manner or not. Just because its a main street it may not be as heavily travelled as another, thus it will be put on the back burner. Side streets are usually the last to get plowed and possibly the city is hoping the residents can hire private contractors or do it themselves. Efficiency in plowing falls in the hands of the road commissioners and how well they know do their job.

gailcalled's avatar

We are accustomed to heavy snowfall and ice issues here. We pay very high property taxes. which then supports the highway department, its equipment, drivers, salt and road maintenance. It doesn’t come cheaply.

Today trucks are moving huge drifts of snow and dumping them onto pastureland, golf courses, and the dead end of the dead end streets.

marinelife's avatar

The amount of snow in Central Jersey simply overwhelmed the system.

DeanV's avatar

With some snowplows they won’t want to clear suburban streets because the snow the piles up will block the way out of the driveways and houses of the people living there. Like they clear the road and then just create a clear street and a wall. And that wall is a bitch to dig through after they’ve moved it.

But like Simone said, the answer is probably just that they’re doing it slowly.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Blackberry Urban areas have a pain because they can’t just plow the snow to the sides of the streets or they cover the sidewalks. Around rural areas, they can just move it to the sides of the roads. Those coastal storms like this one are also so frigging strong they carry a lot of moisture over land and dump it as snow, kind of similar to our lake affect snowstorms. Plus, most municapalities have been squeezed by budget cuts. They don’t have the manpower to handle a big storm.

LuckyGuy's avatar

We have a lot of snow in Western NY. Here’s how we handle it.
Our property taxes pay for services: trucks, plows, loaders, salt, wages including employee overtime.
We get fantastic service. Depending upon the accumulation trucks go out at 3 or 4 AM. They are huge, 10 wheel plow trucks weighing 36,000 pounds loaded, with salters and side wings. The trucks travel at high speed (50 mph in a 30 mph zone) to shoot the snow long distances. The ground rumbles and our houses shake when they go by. They use the town right of way so anything on your front lawn is obliterated if it is in the ROW. Mail boxes, stone statues, small cars, garbage cans are gone from the street and end up in pieces on your front lawn.
The town replaces mailboxes and posts for free. Everything else in the ROW is your problem.
They do the main feeders first, then secondary streets. My road is a 1 mile dead end so they do us toward the end of the route – 6 AM. The plow takes up 80% of the road. If it is coming your way you have to hide in a driveway or ditch your car in a snow bank. Like a freight train, they cannot stop. If you are facing the plow, sometimes you can see the sparks from the hardened steel blade striking the ground like flint on steel. Awesome power.
Trucks have two operators – a driver and wingman who tries to save mailboxes.
After several heavy snowfalls, the snow can be piled up 5–6 feet so on a quiet day the crews come out with loaders and mover the piles onto your lawn or a nearby ditch. That leaves space for the next snowfall.

Even though they are not supposed to, the plows will help pull your car out of a ditch if they are going by. You accept that they are not responsible for damage and you hook the chain onto your car yourself. They pull you out. It takes only a few seconds.

Two years ago, a plow truck slid off the road and tilted about 30 degrees from the vertical, dumping salt. It took two tremendous wreckers to pull it out. In the summer, the town came, removed the poisoned soil and replanted with new grass seed.

We love our plow guys!

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t know much about plowing, but I do know that they have an order they follow when plowing roads in most areas. Any road deemed an “emergency” or “evacuation” route gets priority over other roads. They will plow those roads and ignore the side roads that connect to them until they get the other “emergency/evacuation” routes done first. I think there are a few other roads that get priority before side streets as well, but I’m not 100% sure which roads that would be.

ETpro's avatar

Boston’s pretty good about snow removal. All the main arteries are marked as snow emergency routes. If you leave a car parked on any of those during a declared snow emergency, you will have to pick it up from the police impound lot because it definitely will be towed. By clearing those arteries of cars, they are able to keep the main arteries open even during blizzards, and the main streets are plowed from curb to curb.

The city does a good job of rapidly clearing even the side streets. I live in the North End which is one of the oldest parts of the city. It is crisscrossed by a network of small streets at odd angles and many are only several blocks long. It has lots of narrow alleys with one-way traffic and barely enough room for a box truck between the buildings on each side. Even these have all been plowed. They use pickup trucks with plow blades attached to get into the narrow alleys. Lots are private contractors—guys with a truck and blade who make some extra money working for the city when we have a big snow.

Of course, with as much snow as we get in a winter, the city would be paralyzed for 2 or 3 months a year if we didn’t handle snows aggressively when they come. Areas where such a snowfall is a rarity aren’t going to have the backup equipment, salt, sand and personnel to cover 100% of the roads. They will mostly leave it up to the guys with the 4WD SUVs and trucks to blaze a path for tires at least on the side roads, and each car owner has to dig their own car out. You probably wouldn’t want the extra tax burden to pay for lots of backup equipment and personnel when they are used maybe once in 25 years.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

In my town,at the first indication of snow,our city officials send out teams to work ‘round the clock with their teaspoons clearing the way for us good citizens!
They are usually done by Spring ;)

wundayatta's avatar

In Philly it depends on whether the Mayor is running for reelection or not. So the two years after an election, none of the side streets get plowed. The two years before an election, all the side streets get plowed, even though the city is in the red to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

My street was plowed after this last storm. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Disc2021's avatar

Sometimes there are certain routes that big, heavy plowing equipment cannot take. For instance, my friend lives on a very steep hill and the streets in his neighborhood are narrow. Needless to say, when he gets snowed in… he’s snowed in for awhile.

This in application, that’s what I would think seeing some streets that haven’t been touched. This could also be due to any number of reasons. Maybe the plow-truck driver slipped on ice and knocked himself out cold his on his way to the truck?

janbb's avatar

I live in central New Jersey and we had to get to the airport in Atlantic City yesterday morning. It was like playing the video game Froggers to get out of our neighborhood; even the main highway was not plowed. The next town over was much better and then it got worse again. As others have said, I think it has to do with the overhwelming amount of snow that fell and how much manpower and equipment they have available to throw at the job. Often the people who compalin the loudest at inefficency are the same people who protest at a nickel rise in taxes.

JLeslie's avatar

Usually main streets with heavy traffic and higher speeds are plowed first. If it is the school year, school routes would be given a priority as well I think. And, of course hospitals.

Where I grew up, when they plowed the snow in front of our houses, they did not care that it made the snow behind our cars higher and harder to dig our cars out. There was really no other choice.

SavoirFaire's avatar

As has been said, main streets and pathways to essential and emergency services get plowed first. But there’s more to it than that. Essential and emergency services need workers, so side streets get plowed early sometimes if there are a lot of nurses, doctors, police officers, and the like in that area.

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