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Employees with the City of Minot street department work on installing a snow gate on a leased blade before this year's early October snow storm.
An October snowstorm gave the City of Minot street department an early wakeup call that winter was on its way, but Street Superintendent Kevin Braaten said his crews responded well to the snow event.
“I thought we handled it well. I give kudos to our crews,” Braaten said. “The citywide cleanup week was happening and we were putting snow gates on machines at the same time. It was kind of a weird week.”
Weird, indeed. But Braaten’s crews quickly put the City’s snow plan into effect.
“Crews came in at 8 p.m. Friday night, and it was basically a sanding event until 4 a.m. when we deployed the blades,” he said. “We went through the plan: emergency snow routes, hills and schools, and then other areas.”
“Once we had all the blading done on Monday, then I told the guys to get the street sweepers ready, and we went back out to continue cleaning up leaves,” Braaten added.
While street crews turned their focus again to sweeping and other fall cleanup duties, City mechanics continue to make sure equipment is ready for winter.
“Our mechanics do a great job of keeping our equipment ready to go,” Braaten said. “We do another double check when we know it’s going to snow, but the shop does a great job.”
And there is plenty of equipment to maintain.
The City owns two blades, and leases six more. For the past four years, the City has rented Caterpillar blades, but for the next five years, the City is leasing John Deere equipment. Braaten said the new machines will take a little bit of time to get used to, but he has already had his crews spend time familiarizing themselves with the John Deere blades.
“Operationally, we had to equip the new machines with the snow gates that we basically make ourselves,” Braaten said. “But with leasing these machines for the next five years, we can leave the gates on them, which will save us time every year prepping for winter.”
The gates are used to reduce the amount of snow left in front of driveways, but they do not eliminate the snow completely, Braaten said.
Braaten said the new machines also came equipped with tires suitable for all seasons, which means his crews won’t have to spend time changing the tires every fall.
In addition to the blades, the City also uses two front end loaders with plow attachments on front, three truck plows that are used on the outskirts of the city and in locations where there aren’t driveways, and two snow blowers used to load snow into trucks during snow removal efforts. There’s also a wide variety of other equipment dedicated to snow removal efforts, including trucks and smaller equipment to clean sidewalks.
The 31 employees in the Street Department know winter’s arrival means long days (and nights), and Braaten said the crews will keep a constant eye on the weather forecast and will be ready when needed.
“We watch the weather and we plan accordingly,” Braaten said. “For the last storm event, I had a crew come in at 8 p.m. because it was supposed to start storming at 10 p.m. It didn’t snow as much as they said, so it turned into more of a sanding event to begin with, but when we got three or four inches of snow, we were ready and we sent the blades out.”
Braaten also has a few requests and reminders for the community.
“If you can keep your vehicles off the streets, please do. We know there are neighborhoods where residents have to park on the street, but if you can move your vehicle that just helps us be safer and more efficient,” he said.
“And, please, give our machines room to work,” Braaten added, reminding drivers to slow down during the winter months. “We just had a fender bender where one of our guys was backing up in a blade, looked behind him and didn’t see anyone, and then a vehicle came up right behind him and they bumped into each other.”
Braaten also reminds residents that emergency snow routes often must be cleared multiple times during a storm.
“Those routes have to stay open for emergency vehicles, but there are places that get snow drifts constantly, so we have to go back and do those locations several times during a snow event,” he said. “The last thing we want is for a police vehicle or a fire truck to not have access to a location because of snow, so we keep an eye on those emergency routes.”
As the City has expanded in physical size, the street department’s responsibilities have grown. The City removes snow from more than 1,200 miles of road lanes, and 26.7 miles of sidewalk.
In the winter of 2018-2019, an average day of snow removal operations included: