CLEVELAND — Cleveland city leaders expressed confidence on Wednesday that its fleet of snow plows and the drivers that operate them will be ready for the upcoming winter storm. The city’s final preparations come as residents flock to local stores in order to get ready.
The winter storm baring down on Northeast Ohio and the Midwest is expected to bring a 40-degree drop in temperatures over the next 48 hours before sending windchills to well below zero. Strong wind gusts of up to 60 mph have also been forecast, which will accompany some measurable snow.
At South Hills Hardware off Schaff Road near the border of Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood and Brooklyn Heights, there was a large supply of salt, shovels and other winter weather necessities. Despite being fully stocked, Stefan Wygonski expects it to start flying off shelves ahead of the storm’s arrival.
“When you start looking at that weather forecast and seeing it, that’s when we start seeing people come in,” Wygonski said. “The weather can change quickly, especially here in Cleveland. We like to keep extra on hand in order to anticipate those quick changes. We don’t want to wait a week; we like to have it on hand.”
In a media briefing Wednesday morning, various city leaders, including Public Works Director Frank Williams and Division of Streets Commissioner Randy Scott, detailed the build-up of the city’s snow removal efforts. As soon as the transition from rain to snow occurs, Scott said the city’s crews will begin pre-treating the roads before starting plow operations. With temperatures dropping well below the freezing point, crews may have to utilize more salt than usual in order for it to be effective.
“We’ll be averaging about 45 to 50 units on the roads. We will increase the number of units on the roadways during the event, as necessary, as the weather dictates,” Williams said. “They’ll be working very hard around the clock to limit the amount of ice bonding to the pavement during this event, especially being that it is accompanying rain and a significant temperature drop.”
Although DPW has some vacancies, Williams expressed confidence in staffing levels heading into the weekend.
The storm will mark the first significant weather event for the city’s revamped snow removal program. After shortcomings in the city’s snow removal operations were revealed by two large snow events in January, Mayor Justin Bibb and his cabinet began revamping the operation, including the optimization of the city’s snow plow routes as well as the introduction of in-cab navigation and information systems.
Williams said the city had not yet completed the technology upgrades. The route optimization will only be complete after drivers provide multiple rounds of feedback. Additionally, an updated public-facing snowplow tracker will not be online for this winter storm. Instead, it will be used internally in order to ensure the information is accurate before its final roll-out.
“I do think this weekend is going to be one of the first tests. We’re doing some beta testing right now on some new processes and new technology,” Williams said. “We’ll be matriculating through the season, getting better with technology and process, all the way through the season. Some of the first major testing, in-event testing will be this weekend. We haven’t gotten to that place yet.”
Williams said a total revamp of the city’s snow removal operations will take the entirety of the winter season before truly being complete.
“We’ve been procuring and testing all summer long,” Williams said. “We’re going to implement and we’re going to keep working the process until we get it right.”