Pierce County: Road-clearing costs during arctic storm total $656K

The cost to Pierce County for responding to the arctic storm that battered the region last month was $372,008 over the normal operating costs of $284,966, according to Pierce County Public Works and Utilities director Brian Ziegler and Road Operations Manager Bruce Wagner. That brought the total operations costs for the duration of the storm (Nov. 19 through Nov. 26) to $656,974 (Labor: $266,068; equipment: $124,833; and materials: $266,073). Most of the increased costs were for materials like salt and sand. When averaged over the number of residents in unincorporated county, the cost was less than $2 per person for a week’s worth of snow and ice fighting. According to Ziegler and Wagner, the storm challenged road crews to keep the county road system drivable last month. Crews shifted to round-the-clock 12-hour shifts on Friday, Nov. 19 and tried to stay ahead of wildly fluctuating forecasts. They resumed regular operations on Friday, Nov. 26. Crews followed their snow and ice plan to keep arterial and lifeline routes open. Snowplow drivers plowed the county’s 1,517 miles of arterials and lifeline routes multiple times each shift. They spread 1,759 tons of salt and 1,102 tons of sand. Anti-icer trucks applied 65,100 gallons of salt brine to prevent ice from forming during freezing temperatures. Crews also worked to clear downed trees after cold north winds brought trees and limbs down on roadways. Road Operations budgeted $1.12 million for snow and ice response in 2010. This storm brought the total spent so far in 2010 to just under $845,000 leaving about $275,000 for the rest of this year.