Photo by Ryan Martin.
A record setting winter has caused a multitude of challenges for McLean and Peoria County this year.
This winter has brought a record setting 46.5 inches of snow to Bloomington-Normal, making it the snowiest winter the area has seen since it began keeping record in 1896, according to the National Weather Service.
Peoria County is also setting records this year, receiving 47 inches of snow this winter season, making it the second snowiest winter season on record.
The constant snow storms have caused problems of all kinds for the areas to deal with.
“When ever you get repetitive snow falls the snow continues to pile up, which makes it increasingly difficult to find places to put the snow.” Jim Karch, Director of Public Works for Bloomington, said. “When cleaning up intersections visibility becomes a big concern. You end up having to pull your car up further than you are used to, which can be dangerous at times.”
Another concern with snow piling up can be buried fire hydrants, which can make it hard for firefighters to do their job in cases of emergency. Residents with fire hydrants near their homes are urged to remove the snow from them.
Keeping the roads clear and having a good supply of salt has been a difficult task for both Peoria and McLean County.
Each year Peoria County places an order for salt from the State of Illinois before winter begins based on how much salt they believe they’ll need. After the order is placed, the county is able to ask for 80% to 120% of their initial order. This year the County has asked for the entire 120% of their initial order but is still encountering problems.
“Since we’ve had so many snow events this year, the demand for the salt is increasing statewide.” Amy McLaren, County Engineer for Peoria County Highway Department, said. “What we’re seeing is that it’s taking longer to get our salt to come in, so we’ve had to adjust our operations according to that.”
Bloomington has faced issues getting their salt on time as well.
“Winters like this are quite a challenge.” Karch said. “Both the amount of snow and the extreme cold temperatures that we’ve experienced hinder barge traffic from the south where we get our salt supplies. It makes it hard to get the salt deliveries in on a timely fashion.”
On average Bloomington uses around 6,150 tons of salt per season, but will more than likely end up using over 10,000 tons of salt this season, according to Karch.
The timing of the snow storms has also caused financial issues within both counties, as many of the storms have occurred on weekends and at night.
“Our crews have been spending a lot of time outside of the normal work day for clean up efforts.” McLaren said. “We’ve had to schedule our crews according to when the snow events occur, which has caused a big increase in overtime for the staff. This year we will go over and above the overtime budget for snow removal.”
Bloomington is facing the same issue, and has had to spend over three times their overtime budget of $75,000.
“We’ve had to work our crews overnight and continuously until the roads are clear, which has an impact on our budget.” Karch said. “Residents expect the roads to be cleared by morning, which takes an extra effort. It’s always a tough balance between level of service and cost for municipalities.”
Even after the roads are cleared of snow the counties face other challenges.
“Flooding is one of those issues that residents don’t always think about.” Karch said. “When you have the amount of snow that we’ve had, flooding can occur as the snow melts as a result of drain inlets being covered by snow.”
While the city takes a proactive approach and sends out crews to unblock inlets, residents are encouraged to help out by clearing the top of the inlets near their homes.
In addition to flooding, the increase in potholes also requires both counties attention.
“As the temperature rapidly rises outside while the ground is still frozen, potholes often appear.” McLaren said. “So on warm days we have to send out our crews to patch up the holes.”
With the end of winter still a couple weeks away, look for both counties to continue setting records in an already overly snowy winter.