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Bozeman plows work against 'mixture of seasons,' icy conditions

Gallatin County experiencing 'unusual' October snow, ice
Posted at 3:43 PM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 17:43:30-04

BOZEMAN — What happens when two seasons clash?

You get exactly what road crews were dealing with this week in Gallatin County.

While MDT was out plowing along roads like Huffine Lane, Bozeman Streets crews were working in town.

According to them, this mixture of fall and winter makes ice out here a bit unusual.

“It definitely qualifies as that," says John VanDelinder, Bozeman Streets Superintendent. "This is unusual for October.”

To VanDelinder, this first wave of October snow fell right in the middle of the changing seasons.

“I’m not sure everybody was ready for this," VanDelinder says. "[They didn't get] their campers and trailers put away like they should have already. We saw those out there.”

VanDelinder says in this case, fall and winter are a bad mix.

“The pavement temperature is 45, 50 degrees no matter how cold it is so everything that fell at first was in liquid form and then we did get cold, as well as a little bit of wind and that just froze everything," VanDelinder says.

On top of that, leaf cleanup didn’t get a chance to happen.

“We would have been doing it this week," VanDelinder says. "We’re not.”

VanDelinder says that’s causing a different problem, with snow-covered piles of leaves being shoved back on to yards and sidewalks.

“We don’t want to be peeling those leaves up and putting them up on the boulevard and opening up an insulated area," VanDelinder says. "Then we could free storm drains.”

Bozeman Streets crews use sand with a light mixture of salt but they can’t start using yet for a variety of reasons.

“This cold of temperatures, it’s not going to work," VanDelinder says. "You’re not going to melt anything at this temperature.”

When it warms up, he adds that crews will work to at least put down more sand to help drivers have better traction.

Until then, plows will keep at it.

“Give us room," VanDelinder says. "Our trucks say stay back 50 feet. If you could stay back more than that, we’d appreciate it. You can get in a blind spot and we can back into you and not even know you’re there. There’s enough horsepower in those trucks, we could probably run over some of the smaller cars and not hardly know it.”

As always, VanDelinder says another key thing to keep in mind to help not just his plow truck drivers out in these wet, changing conditions: keep your windshield completely clear.