Just as the Rim Country’s latest snowfall is lingering, so are the effects of the New Year’s storm.
Gila County declared a state of emergency Dec. 31 in order to get as much snow removal equipment as possible on the roads.
District One Supervisor Tommie Martin explained that once a state of emergency is declared, it’s possible to use general fund money to hire outside contractors to help get snow off the county roads.
The county is responsible for all the roads outside incorporated communities and state highways.
“We were dealing with two feet of snow and three- to four-foot drifts from Pine (and Strawberry) to Young,” Martin said.
A state of emergency also makes it possible for county (or contracted) snow removal crews to go on private roads, “to dig out people — old, sick and young,” Martin said.
Normally it takes about 12 hours to clear a given route, she said, but the cold slowed things. Also causing delays in clearing the roads were the vehicles either parked or stuck alongside them. If a car is along the road, a plow can’t make it by to properly clear the snow, Martin said.
She said the county prohibits parking on the roadsides from October through April. If a plow driver comes across a parked vehicle on their route they note the vehicle license and make a report to the sheriff’s office. Martin said the GCSO would contact the owner to have them remove it. If it is not removed, the county will tow it at the owner’s expense.
Martin said another problem encountered with snow removal operations were the ATVs that ran up and down some roads, packing the snow and consequently creating what amounted to ice rinks. The best the county could do in those cases was smooth away the high ridges.
Prior to the declaration of an emergency Dec. 31, county road crews worked for two days with Arizona Public Service to reach isolated areas to restore electricity.
Martin said from Dec. 29 through Jan. 1, county employees directly involved in the snow removal work put in at least 800-plus hours. There were 23 people — 17 crew members, five mechanics and a dispatcher — involved. The county had nine plows, nine blades and one dozer working to clear 321 miles of county roads and 98 miles of subdivision streets.
“Our people did a heck of a job punching a hole through so fire departments could get to everyone,” Martin said.
She added crews were on the roads before 6 a.m. and continued working until after 8 p.m. to get the job done.
Martin brought up the recap of the emergency work in the “current events” portion of the Jan. 4 county supervisors meeting. Both Chairman Mike Pastor and District Two Supervisor Shirley Dawson also commended the county crews and Director of Emergency Services Matthew Bolinger for their efforts.