With snow having fallen for the first time this season in the Western Treasure Valley, keeping it under control is the only way to keep business moving as usual. Keeping roads drivable around cities throughout Payette County is a group effort between municipalities and residents.
Payette plows approximately 120 miles of streets, according to City Clerk Mary Cordova; Fruitland has 26 miles, according to its Snow Removal Policy; and New Plymouth has 12, according to its Public Works director.
All three cities remind residents and business owners they are responsible for removing snow from the sidewalks in front of their properties. Fruitland keeps a list for elderly and disabled persons to add their names to for crews to remove snow as manpower becomes available.
Following are summaries of 2019-20 snow plans for cities across Payette County.
Crews in Payette start plowing snow when 3 to 4 inches builds up on roadways. However, if the forecast calls for additional snowfall, the city starts plowing as little as 2 inches.
The plan aims to keep winter traffic moving “as safely as possible,” placing major priority on keeping major streets open first then tending to the rest of the 50-plus mile network of roads within Payette as resources allow. According to the summary, “by following this priority system, in the event of an emergency, police and fire personnel can get to within a few blocks of any home by the way of a plowed major street.”
With regard to parking on city streets, Payette City Code 10.20.200 allows the mayor to invoke parking restrictions on all streets within city limits, should the snow reach a level which endangers public health and safety and requires snowplowing.
The city operates its own plows, with Cordova praising their efforts.
“The City Streets Department operates the snow plows and do an excellent job. Citizens and businesses play their part as well, by clearing privately owned sidewalks to provide safe pathways for our many pedestrians.”
In Fruitland, winter road maintenance crews try to provide adequate plowing, street sanding and anti-icing for city streets and city-owned property within 12-hour shifts whenever possible. Fruitland begins plowing main routes as snow reaches two inches to prevent excessive snow pack from bonding to the pavement, with residential areas plowed once snowfall exceeds 3 inches. To keep disruptions to a minimum, Main Street is plowed between 2:30 and 6 a.m.
Public Works keeps an on-call employee ready 24 hours a day to receive instructions from Fruitland Police for emergency maintenance on weekends. The department has four plow trucks, a road grader and two machines with front buckets for the job. Outside help is used only when snow conditions exceed the city’s capabilities, in the form of contract services as the City Council deems appropriate.
Fruitland Public Works Superintendent Jerry Campbell says the most frequently asked item is about cars parked along city streets. Campbell advises citizens to avoid parking along streets, in an effort to allow snow plow operators to plow streets more effectively.
The City of New Plymouth keeps a combination plow/sandtruck, a grader, backhoe and a utility task vehicle for winter road maintenance.
New Plymouth Public Works Superintendent Beau Ziemer says the business district and schools get top priority, with residential areas only plowed if snow exceeds 4 inches during a storm.
Zimmer says no plowing occurs during active snow, unless directed to do so by the city’s police chief. Pre-treating is done as weather conditions allow, Ziemer said.
The Idaho Transportation Department steps in to keep major highways moving, with Public Information Specialist Jake Melder urging drivers to be ‘Idaho Ready.’
“Attacking a storm is very situational,” says Melder. “Our operators receive several hours of training just on different methods to clear the road based on conditions. In broad strokes, we work with the National Weather Service to get the best forecast information possible. We schedule staff so that we always have staff available when a storm is expected to hit.”
As plows begin to tackle the snow, Melder reminds drivers to be courteous and let snow plow operators to do their job safely.
“If you see a plow, the safest place to be is at least a-hundred feet behind it. On a two-lane road, passing is inadvisable,” especially on the right, as the plow is likely to be throwing snow there.
Melder urges getting vehicles inspected before driving long distances, keeping emergency supplies in your car (food, water, blankets, flashlight, etc.), and avoiding driving too fast for the conditions.
“The speed limit is the fastest safe speed in ideal conditions – it’s not the speed you have to go,” says Melder.
And of course, he says, buckle up.