If you live in Nebraska, you certainly expect all kinds of weather, including ice and snow. Mother Nature can be nice, or fierce, but we all know she will do what she wants, when she wants and for how long she wants. We imagine you, like Lincoln’s snowfighters, want to prepare and have a plan for what may come.
Lincoln’s snowfighters’ plan includes gathering forecasting data, utilizing technology and other resources available to assist them when developing Winter Operations plans unique to each winter event. Some questions we plan for include:
- What will the temperature be at any given time?
- When will a storm hit? Will it be during rush hour, overnight or on a weekend?
- Will a storm involve snow, ice, or a combination of both?
- How long will a storm last and how many inches of snow will we get?
- What areas of Lincoln will see the most impact?
Adrenaline Flows in our Snowfighters
Whatever comes, Lincoln Transportation and Utilities (LTU) snowfighters are ready. Our snowfighters transform into scientists/chemists, meteorologists, planners, coordinators, and conscientious servants for our great city. They are anxiously and enthusiastically awaiting the big snowfall. When it does happen, they go to great lengths to prioritize snow operations day and night for the duration of the season.
Preparations for winter occurs all year long. Salt and sand are ordered and stored, brine compounds are being perfected, equipment is cleaned, repairs are made, and temperature sensors and GPS mapping are checked to be sure all are in working order. At the same time, LTU’s snowfighters and contractor teammates go through annual safety training. All prepared for go time!
It Really is a Science
What materials are used, how the materials are used, and when the materials are used during the winter months, are common questions. Deicing materials have been key to effective plowing efforts for the last 20 years. LTU’s Operations and Maintenance team is always working to enhance its techniques and technology to advance the Winter Operations program.
Each snowstorm is different and will use a variety of materials at different times during a winter event based on temperatures, humidity, and forecasting. So, a bit of background:
- Anti-icing liquid, known as brine, is a beet juice mixture put on the streets prior to a winter storm to help snow and ice from freezing to the road. Brine is a very effective deicer.
- Rock salt is a de-icing tool that helps break down snow and ice when frozen to the road. Rock salt alone becomes ineffective though, once temperatures dip below 15 degrees, so pre-wetting of the salt with liquid brine during application is key.
- Sand is only used for trouble spots to increase traction. Its effectiveness lasts about three vehicle passes.
- Thirteen pavement sensors across the city help analyze surface and air temperatures, and humidity. This technology assists snowfighters in determining what street treatments will be best for any given winter situation.
Here is where the science really comes in. Sodium chloride and calcium chloride are added to the liquid brine in specific amounts according to temperatures and freeze points. Approximately one-half million gallons of brine are needed each year. The City can store 247,000 gallons. A large supply is needed for the maintenance of more than 1,200 lane miles of arterial streets the City covers. This distance is equivalent to driving to New York City.
Resources for Residents
During a snowstorm, check out Lincoln’s one-stop Winter Operations website to see our snowfighting team’s plowing progress. The GPS map shows plowing progress in real-time to give you an immediate look at the City’s efforts to clear the streets of snow and ice.
Patience, Understanding and Cooperation
Information overload? There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to keep Lincoln’s streets plowed and safe for citizens.
Being a snowfighter is not an easy job. It involves long hours, unpredictable schedules, cold temperatures, and a rough ride. LTU snowfighters seemingly work like an octopus. They juggle many duties simultaneously to get the streets cleared of snow as safely, quickly, and efficiently as possible. To get this accomplished, the patience, understanding, and cooperation from all residents in Lincoln is appreciated.
The more cars moved off the streets, the more effective plows can be to move snow from the center of the streets to the curbs. Much like when a football quarterback runs the football, defensive tackles will block his progress and prevent him from getting a touchdown. This analogy is much the same when cars are parked or blocking streets. The parked vehicles are in a way, the defensive tackles of our snow operations, and prevent efficient and complete plowing progress. So, let’s move as many vehicles off the streets as possible, so snowfighters can clear the streets fast. We’d call this a touchdown! 🏈
When and Where Not to Park
To get the streets cleared quickly and efficiently throughout large snowfalls, a parking ban may be issued. It is always best to park off the street in a driveway or parking garage.
More information: Where can I park during parking bans?
During a residential parking ban, parking is banned on either the odd-numbered side of the street during an odd-numbered year like 2021 and 2023; or parking will be banned on the even-numbered side of the street in even-numbered years like 2022 and 2024.
Here is a little tip to help keep the snow off the entrance to your driveway when the plows come through.
And, a quick reminder to shovel your sidewalk. City ordinance requires snow and ice to be cleared from the sidewalks by 9 a.m. the day following the end of a snowstorm. Be sure to also clear the snow away from fire hydrants and curb ramps in case of a fire or other emergency.
Residents who need assistance shoveling snow, or those who would like to volunteer to help shovel snow, can contact the Snow Angels Program.
All information related to Winter Operations can be found by visiting snow.lincoln.ne.gov.
Any non-emergency issues can be reported to UPLNK.lincoln.ne.gov
Well, we have covered a lot of information here to help you through the snow season. LTU is prepared and we hope you are too!