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Published March 11 2009

Forum editorial: Give snowplow operators a break

No matter how many snowplows were on the road the past couple of days, they could not have kept up with the two-day blizzard that dumped nearly a foot of snow on Fargo-Moorhead and the region. Whipped by winds gusting to near 40 mph, the snow came in two waves, both during day when commuters were commuting and most activities in the city were humming along on routine schedules.

Monday and Tuesday both started out with winter storm and blizzard warnings, but conditions early in the day seemed less threatening than the forecast – in town, that is. In rural areas and to a lesser extent in the new and open neighborhoods in south Fargo, a cold north wind was polishing icy roadways and drifts were closing east-west thoroughfares. By late afternoon Monday no travel was advised on Interstate 29 and Interstate 94 was closed from Fargo to Jamestown, N.D.

Tuesday by midmorning the second wave of stormy weather – a blizzard – socked the region with more snow and even stronger winds. Combined with plunging temperatures, conditions were dangerous. Highways remained closed and nearly every school and business in the metro area either did not open or closed by mid-morning. Emergency services personnel warned they likely could not respond to calls coming from persons who got stranded on roads.

By Tuesday noon, the wind had reduced visibility to near zero at times, even in the city. The F-M metro area was all but shut down.

Road crews worked tirelessly to keep snow emergency routes open, but there was no way they could even get to many secondary streets. Because of the wind, plow operators found themselves returning again and again to major roadways – especially east-west streets – that began to fill in as soon as the plow opened them up.

Despite conditions about as bad as they get in this region in March, the grousers still groused because the snow removal crews did not get to their neighborhood fast enough to satisfy them. That’s gotten to be routine in the past few years, most often among residents who don’t fully understand what it takes for municipalities to deal with a big winter storm. In Fargo and West Fargo specifically, the complaints have accelerated as the cities expanded to the west and south, adding hundreds of miles of neighborhood streets and new connecting feeders. Compounding the irritation, new neighborhoods are mostly treeless, flat and exposed to the wind. Snow piles into the streets.

Nonetheless, city, county and state snow removal crews always do what is possible – and safe – to open the roadways during and after a snowstorm. They put in long hours in difficult conditions. Overall, they do a hell of a good job, given the circumstances. Give ’em a break.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board