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Snow and Ice Frequently Asked Questions

When do you decide to start treating the streets?
If the weather is forecasted to be dry before the frozen precipitation arrives, arterial streets are treated with a salt brine mixture. If weather analysis forecasts sleet or a light mist before snow or ice, we will pre-treat with salt. Pre-treatment applies mostly to bridges and hills, with a few exceptions dependent on conditions. There is no pre-treatment with heavy rains before a storm transitions to snow or ice. Rain will wash away the salt material.

What streets do crews focus on?
1,770 lane miles of arterials and public streets surrounding hospitals and emergency facilities. Private streets around hospitals, such as the St. Francis complex, are treated by private contractors hired by the hospital. Secondary routes include schools. No other neighborhood streets or hills are treated. Neighborhood streets would add another 3,000 lane miles of treatment with salt. Crews work on arterials until they are cleared. Oklahoma is a warmer state with frequent freeze/thaw conditions, and with a few exceptions, snow generally melts to a passable stage within one to three days average. NOTE: Highways within the City limits of Tulsa are the responsibility of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

How long does it take to complete a pass over the city? Crews work continuously throughout the storm. Once a storm has moved through, crews should have arterial streets cleared in 24-36 hours.

Why don't we have more trucks?
If we had more trucks, we also would need adequate funding for more drivers.

To get the staffing levels to maintain 49 trucks, we currently have all Commercial Driver's License holders from Streets, Stormwater, Solid Waste, Traffic, Inventory, Facilities Maintenance, Parks and Underground Collections. The Water Department also is on call to work water line breaks. In addition to every CDL-holder employed by the City to handle all 64 trucks, snow & ice staffing includes equipment operators and Equipment Management mechanics who work around the clock to replace snow plow blades and repair trucks as needed.

Why don't crews treat neighborhood streets?
Oklahoma is a warmer state with frequent freeze/thaw cycles. The City budgets less for snow and ice removal than northern states. The frequent freeze/thaw cycles leads to more potholes and creates a higher budget need for repairs.

Do you treat streets differently if it's snow or ice? If so, how?
Crews use more salt if there is ice. In addition, during an ice storm the same crews must also handle other hazards such as fallen trees, which adds to the workload and resource need.

Why doesn't the City treat roads with sand?
The use of sand on the roadways requires more clean-up and the associated costs. Sand build-up creates a sliding hazard on the roadway for the driving public and increases the potential for more accidents.

What problems do trucks face when running a route?
Abandoned cars and construction sites. City departments share information on construction and reports are provided to each salt truck driver so they can drive the routes in advance and determine where the problem areas will be.

Other problems that can be encountered are curves in the curb, catch basin dips and curves, manholes and water valves that can catch the plow, causing a jolt to the truck and damage to the blades.

To remedy the latter, engineers have been asked to lower manholes when designing road construction projects. Streets managers are ordering plows that have a trip blade that will allow them to go over a manhole with less of a problem.

What do you need the public to do to help improve crew safety and their own?
Stay home and do not make unnecessary car trips. If you have to be out, drive slowly and give the crews distance. Cars that get stuck and are abandoned will be reported and may be towed at the owner's expense.

Place all automatic sprinkler systems on manual during winter. Water from sprinklers freezes and becomes a roadway hazard.

How many snow routes are there?
Thirty five.

What is the shift schedule?
Twelve hour shifts from midnight to noon and noon to midnight. The City is divided into two sections with the City's East street maintenance responsible for all routes east of Yale and the West yard responsible for all routes west of Yale.

If a truck is running with a plow up and not dropping salt, what might he be doing?
The truck is probably heading back to the supply yard to be reloaded, but there also are other reasons such as refueling, mechanical issues, shift change, or changing blades on the snow plow.

Snow plows must be changed about every 6-8 hours and can be damaged if they scrape pavement or hit a bump.

How is downtown treated?
With salt only, unless the snow is deep and sticks around for days. When the downtown streets are plowed, crews also have to budget resources to remove it and must pull in other resources.

A truck with a plow and spreader is a cost of $175,000. The overtime cost for a driver's compensation and benefits is $36 per hour.

What is the average cost?
A truck with a plow and spreader is a cost of $220,000. The overtime cost for a driver's compensation and benefits is approximately $36 per hour.

Does the City plan for contractors to assist in large snow storms?
The City does have the ability to quickly enter emergency contracts for a very large snowfall, but there is no additional funding. Emergency contracts with the private sector is a last resort and generally used only as part of part of an federal emergency declaration providing reimbursement to the City. The last time contracts were used was during the 2010/11 blizzard in order to clear downtown snow piles more quickly.

What's needed to be a city truck driver?
A Commercial Driver's License and training. Only City employees with CDLs may drive City trucks. All available CDL-holders are required to work during snow and ice emergencies, and vacations are generally postponed.

How are all Snow & Ice support staff and drivers alerted to report?
Crew managers and emergency managers across the city monitor the weather constantly using multiple sources, including weather sensors, news media reports, National Weather Service consults and Mesonet.  To ensure each crew member is aware, managers call supervisors who use a phone tree to alert every individual driver.