Tulsa's 2nd mild winter in a row helps city street crews
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
3/19/13 at 2:40 AM
Tulsa Streets Manager Tim McCorkell considers mild winters a blessing for street crews who are pulled from their normal duties to respond to winter storms.
Barring a spring snowfall, Tulsa crews have had two of the biggest blessings since the Dust Bowl.
The city has received 5.4 inches of snow since late 2011, the least in a two-winter period since 2.8 inches between late 1934 and early 1936. Another four-tenths of an inch would tie the next-lowest mark, set between 1979 and 1981.
"We've been blessed in the last couple years," McCorkell said. "When we dealt with the blizzard a couple years ago, we were here for like three straight weeks around the clock."
The city spent about $300,000 to increase its standing stockpile of salt from 9,600 tons to an all-time high of 14,500 tons after receiving 26.1 inches of snow in the winter of 2010-11, and added five snowplows and seven salt spreaders to its winter fleet.
But it hasn't needed them.
Crews have used 2,449 tons of salt in the last two winters - less than half the amount used in any of the previous four winters, according to city data.
Meanwhile, the new winter vehicles have been relegated to regular street duties, as the vehicles typically are between snowstorms, McCorkell said.
And therein lies the blessing, he said.
"When we have a mild winter, of course, we get to do more work on the streets," he said. "It's given everybody a lot more working days throughout the year to accomplish things."
The city normally uses up to 170 workers - about 85 in two daily 12-hour shifts - for snow preparation and cleanup, diverting them from regular duties that include road repairs, vehicle maintenance, sign installation and pond maintenance, McCorkell said.
After a storm, road crews typically focus on patching potholes caused by the temperature swings and moisture, he said. During bad winters, crews patch as many as 70,000 potholes, but the number this year is likely less than half of that, he said.
Without significant snowfall, crews can focus on ongoing projects from the $452 million 2008 Fix Our Streets initiative, for example, he said. Officials say those projects remain on schedule.
"It's given everybody a lot more time to get our streets in shape," McCorkell said.
Tulsa's next chance of winter weather is Friday, although it is unclear how significant the threat is and which type of precipitation may fall, according to the National Weather Service.
McCorkell said the city maintains winter readiness until April 15. With or without more snow, the city is likely to top off its salt stockpile once again this year, aiming to start next winter with about 14,500 tons, he said.
Salt tonnage used and snow by season
2012-13: 1,053 / Snow: 3.7 inches
2011-12: 1,396 / Snow: 1.7 inches
2010-11: 5,434 / Snow: 26.1 inches
2009-10: 5,505 / Snow: 22.8 inches
2008-09: 8,607 / Snow: 12.4 inches
2007-08: 6,375 / Snow: 3.3 inches
Sources: City of Tulsa, National Weather Service
Original Print Headline: Mild winter helps street crews
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Piles of salt sit at the city yard in Tulsa last week. The city has an abundance of salt following little snowfall during the last two winters. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World