Local road departments struggle to remove snow, ice from roads

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Officials with the city of Jonesboro responded to criticism raised by viewers of Region 8 News. Over the weekend, several residents called the Region 8 newsroom with concerns over how efficiently the city is clearing roads of ice and snow. Floyd Lemm, Jonesboro Street Superintendent, said the magnitude of the winter storm coupled with confusion about snow-clearing routes raised frustration among residents.

"We were ready for it and we got probably two to three times more snow than most snow events actually present here in Jonesboro," said Lemm.

Lemm said each of the city's 54 employees on the street department worked overtime during the weekend. The city used nine snow plows, two graders and four chemical trucks to clean the roads, as well as manual labor.

"We had people out starting Thursday night. They started plowing the roads and mostly plowing until the ice started building up, then we started sanding the major intersections and our snow route calls for us to work the main thoroughfares for emergency 911, police and fire," said Lemm.

Many of what seem to be major thoroughfares aren't the responsibility of Jonesboro. Highland, Stadium, Parker, Johnson, Alexander and Dan Avenue are all the responsibility of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

"I think the highway department is working at their pace and their phase. Obviously they've got a pretty big area from the district engineering area in Paragould, Arkansas. You're absolutely right. Some of our major internal roads are Highland, Caraway and Stadium, which are state highways. We still go ahead and hit the overpasses like on Stadium and stuff," said Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin. "We go ahead and try to work with them and coordinate with the highway department."

District 10 Engineer Walter McMillan told Region 8 News Monday that southern parts of the district were worse than others because more ice fell in that area. Ice is more difficult to remove than snow and snow plows run until all ice is off roadways. Snow can be pushed into the turning lane until it can be removed safely.

"We're fighting a losing battle because as much as we have to cover over the city, we make one round over the major thoroughfares and by the time we get back, as heavy as this particular snow was coming down, it was like we haven't even been there," said Lemm. "The fact that they didn't see our trucks was just that we were so covered up all over the city we were just very busy trying to stay up with what was coming down in a short amount of time."

"When you go across that with a grader and pack that down, the next morning, that is a solid sheet of ice. Then we had to go back out again and cover those with our material to loosen that up to melt so people could get through," said Perrin.

Perrin admitted several roads were still covered in snow and ice as of Monday afternoon.

"As many roads as we've got to deal with in the city of Jonesboro, it's very difficult to get that done in a certain period of time but I think all the effort that we've put out on those streets. I think that you've got a lot of it gone already, but is all of it gone on every street, no, and that's something we'll have to take a look at and see," said Perrin. "Jonesboro is 80 square miles over so you can just imagine how many paved roads are in those 80 square miles."

Perrin said he was satisfied with the work his road crews have done over the last several days.

"The city has a plan. The first thing they do is hit the major arterial roads, the second thing is roads leading to the hospitals and the grocery stores, areas like that that we have to get to," said Perrin.

"It really didn't sneak up on us. It just came down so fast that we're just trying to stay on it," said Lemm.

"Some are more of an incline and if they call, I know I had some calls on Stroud Street for instance and we were out there within 35 to 40 minutes because that's one that was overlooked during this deal," said Perrin. "The big thing on this one is not necessarily the amount of snow we got, but the way it came in. It came in with the ice, the snow and then it continued again so when we were out working. We had to double track and go back on some of these routes two times or three times on some of the major deals which caused us to get behind on the secondary."

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