A letter to the community From Lynnwood’s Public Works Director

Dear Friends:

We have just come through one of the most challenging weather events that I’ve seen in my 28 years with the City of Lynnwood. We experienced 10 straight days of freezing temperatures and multiple snowfalls resulting in over a foot of accumulated snow.

An event of this magnitude put considerable strain on our staff and resources, and practically halted city-wide day-to-day operations. Here are some statistics to illustrate:

-Crew members from our Public Works Utilities, Streets, and Building Divisions, and crew members from Parks Maintenance worked tirelessly to plow and sand streets, clear our parks and City building parking lots and adjacent sidewalks.
-Public Works ran six plow/sanders/deicer trucks around the clock during the event.
-Approximately 720 hours of overtime was logged at a cost of $35,000.
-Crews spread 420 cubic yards of sand, 64 tons of salt, and 6,200 gallons of deicer.
-Office and support staff responded to well over 150 phone calls and 100 emails and provided constant communications on our City website and social media platforms.

Since this type of snow event is rare here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s just not financially prudent to have a stockpile of equipment like Midwest or East Coast cities. However, after our last major snow event several years ago, the city invested in some upgraded equipment and supplies, and they were put to good use this year. During a snow event, the prime responsibility of the Public Works Department is to maintain as safe as possible driving conditions on our main streets and arterials by deicing, sanding and plowing. Lynnwood has 100 miles of roads with about half classified as arterials.

For the first seven days of the 10-day storm, clearing the arterials took all of our time and resources, especially when new snowfall would occur day after day. Once the main streets were in good shape, crews then focused their attention on neighborhood side streets, with a special emphasis on hills. Unfortunately, we can’t use our two large plow/sander trucks on narrow neighborhood streets, so our ability to get to all neighborhood streets diminished.

The city’s website has our snow plow map that shows priority streets that will receive first attention. Also available on the web are live images from our traffic cameras spread throughout the City. You can also follow us on twitter @LynnwoodStreets. With this information, a savvy commuter can know what road conditions are, what streets are most likely plowed and sanded, and any other important road conditions before ever leaving their driveway.

Maintenance of sidewalks also generated lots of questions and some confusion. Property owners (homes, apartments, businesses, public facilities, etc.) are required to clear snow and debris from their frontage sidewalks. This is hard work and can be difficult to do. I know that it is also frustrating when the city’s plows push the snow from the street onto the gutter and sidewalk. This makes shoveling even more difficult. I wish there was a way for our plows to clear the street without piling the snow on the sidewalk, but unfortunately that is not possible. We heard many stories of neighbors helping each other and watching out for each other’s safety while clearing snow. One positive aspect of this type of event is that it pulls people together and gives the opportunity to get to know our neighbors better!

I’d like to thank the following people for all they did during these past weeks:

-City crews who worked long hours and were pulled away from their families to help make our roads, city facilities, and parks safe.
-Our office staff that kept the lines of communication open with customers, often while they themselves were trapped by snow at home.
-Lynnwood Police, South County Fire and Snohomish County 9-1-1 for their excellent support and coordination.
-To our community members that sent us feedback, worked to remove snow from their sidewalks, and stayed amazingly patient during this drawn-out event.
-Our leadership (Mayor Nicola Smith and City Councilmembers) who supported our efforts and offered helpful insight.

In closing, I’m very proud to represent the Public Works Department and the City of Lynnwood. We strive to be a regional model in all that we do, and I am confident that our efforts during the recent snow storms resulted in some of the best treated roads in the region.

Bill Franz, Public Works Director

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