Don't tell anyone who spent three hours shoveling, but Elm Grove village officials agreed that last week's massive snowstorm could have been much worse. It wasn't the 18 or more inches of snow that fell that they were referring to - although the area has seen bigger snowstorms - but rather the damage done as a result.
Mike Flaherty, director of public works in Elm Grove, said he had two-man teams on three-hour shifts to keep his crew fresh over the course of the storm. His team targeted main roads, intersections and hills as heavy winds and drifting snow added to the potential problems faced by road crews.
Flaherty revamped some of the plow routes as the drifting worsened and said he is confident that at no time were any roads impassable. Fortunately for crews, traffic was minimal as the forecast for this storm sent a clear message: If you're at home, stay there; if you're not home, get there.
Maintaining emergency services
Elm Grove Assistant Police Chief Gus Moulas said call volumes were extremely low during the storm - only about a dozen calls for service from Tuesday through Wednesday night. Officers had to work closely with the DPW staff because there were times when the plows were needed to make sure emergency vehicles could get where they needed to go.
"We always had plows on the road, which was important because they were able to plow ahead of the emergency crews when we had an ambulance call," Moulas said.
There also was a fire call that had village emergency workers helping with a faulty furnace, but those were the two biggest issues of the storm.
Only six drivers had to call police seeking help because they were stuck, and the only accident was caused when a private plow-truck failed to yield and hit another car.
Attention to snow helped relieve burden
There actually tend to be more problems during lighter snowfalls because people have a false sense of security - and that means more cars on the roads.
"Sometimes we'll have bigger problems with 2-, 3-inch snowfalls where people are not driving prudently for the conditions," Moulas said.
"Work isn't being canceled, schools are open - you have the same significant volume of traffic to deal with and therefore you consequently end up with more problems than the 10-inch snowstorms where people are opting not to travel."
Even more than a week later, crews are still out trying to get the roads back to optimum condition. Flaherty said the DPW was out early in the storm and pushed back snow off the road edge just to allow storage of the drift before it had even happened.
Now, the biggest problem is what to do with all the snow, especially since the winter is far from over and more snow likely will come.
"That's one of our biggest problems, is the downtown with the businesses - they have no where for snow to go, so I want to make sure we concentrate on getting those cleaned up," Flaherty said.
He expects the cleanup process, at least for last week's blizzard, to be completed by the end of this week - barring any significant new snowfall.
By now, home and business owners are well past the 24-hour deadline to have sidewalks cleared, except on Bluemound Road where there is no deadline.
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