Riverdale Park Weathers the Storm
By Alice Ewen Walker, Editor
While some residential streets in Alexandria and other jurisdictions remained unplowed three days or more after the final flakes of the Presidents Day storm, Riverdale Park residents experienced swift and thorough street plowing throughout the snow event. Town crews worked around the clock through the heaviest snowfall since the blizzard of 1996, keeping the town streets remarkably clear.
As others shoveled, children could be seen pulling their sleds toward Riversdale Mansion, cross country skiers were sighted on Oliver Street making their way toward the Anacostia River trail, and snowmen sprouted on lawns throughout town.
Public works director Jim Houser could be seen plowing the streets himself on Saturday, after receiving a call from Riverdale Park Police to let him know that precipitation was beginning to stick to the roads. Many employees made their way through the storm to report to work during what was to have been a holiday weekend. At times, pickup trucks were used in tandem, the first plowing a swath that the other filled with salt. In areas of town where parking was congested, employees actually relocated the snow, moving piles of it with a tractor and stake body truck. On other streets, the medium duty dump truck purchased last fall proved invaluable, as it is stronger than the pickups and able to both plow and automatically salt streets at the same time.
Town Administrator Pat Prangley commented, "This snow storm was on a scale we haven't seen in quite some time. All departments worked together as a team to address the emergency, not just to clear streets but to do things like transport patients and medical workers to hospitals. It really required a continuous effort from the beginning of the storm through the next weekend 's rain. This was a unique situation and all departments did an outstanding job coordinating with each other and working long hours to address the snow emergency. Everyone involved showed exemplary dedication to the effort."
Crews cleared the streets despite equipment breakdowns that caused delays. During the course of the storm, three plows broke, but employees were able to jury-rig temporary fixes that kept the plows in action. Employees also fixed two controllers on pickup trucks. The equipment has since been serviced by mechanics.
After the snow stopped falling, the work didn't stop. Plowing continued along key intersections to make the roads passable for garbage service, which resumed on Wednesday. In the end, residents experienced only one day of delay of regular trash service.
Employees began hand-shoveling snow to clear storm drains in an effort to reduce flooding as snow melted. Crews returned to emergency work on the following Saturday during the heavy rains, removing snow and slush from storm drains on Somerset Road and other locations that experienced flooding.
More snow is expected this year. Asked about how the town will handle future snow events, Public Works Chair and Ward 1 Councilmember Rebecca Feldberg commented, "Public Works did an outstanding job in this storm. There is, however, one area where we really need to improve and that is in the quality of our equipment. Last fall the Council was asked to approve purchase of a light duty dump truck with snowplow and salt spreader. It didn't make it into the final budget. We are going to face the same or more difficult restraints in this year's budget, but the equipment is still going to be a need. The equipment breakdowns during this storm illustrate the need for heavy-duty equipment, and the need for adequate budgeting to cover the costs of these snow events."
In future events, Public Works Director Jim Houser noted that the town residents can play a crucial role by making sure that cars are parked on only one side of the street. Where this was the case, plows were able to clear lanes much more effectively during the storm. "If everyone works together on one block to move the cars, it helps a lot," said Houser. According to current town law, cars should be moved to the odd side of the street when snow is anticipated.
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