On the night of Thursday, November 15, Syracuse and much of upstate New York was hit with the first nor’easter of the season. The storm brought a foot or more of snow to surrounding areas, smothering roads and closing dozens of schools. According to several local sources, with the snowstorm came many, many frustrated complaints from Syracuse citizens trapped in their driveways.
As CNY Central writes, Elmhurst ave and many other side streets were not cleared of snow until the weekend was nearly over.
Syracuse.com explained why this storm was particularly frustrating for residents. Syracuse Public Works Commissioner Jeremy Robinson said that the city’s snow plow crews were not prepared for the storm. Many of the trucks had not been converted from leaf collectors to plows, and only 11 of the total 29 trucks were able to tackle the 400 miles of road that needed to be maintained.
In addition to the lack of trucks, the city also had a lack of workers. Many plow drivers take vacations to gear up for the coming winter, and less than half of the team was on shift and available during the nor’easter.
It goes without saying that unplowed roads are dangerous. Drugs other than alcohol are involved in 18% of motor vehicle deaths, but a significant number of road deaths are also related to winter driving conditions. According to SafeWinterRoads.org, 116,000 injuries and 1,300 deaths are caused by snowy, slushy, and icy pavement every year.
Like the snow of any early winter storm, the snow from November 15 and 16 was also particularly difficult to manage. Warmer temperatures in the low 30s and high 20s made for dense, heavy precipitation. In fact, six inches of wet snow is equal to the weight of 38 inches of drier, colder snow– those shoveling themselves out of the driveway certainly had their work cut out. The warmer snow also made the roads even slicker as piles of slush built up at corners and intersections.
Every year, many Syracuse residents take matters into their own hands by equipping personal vehicles with snowplow attachments and a $250 plow license. The plow licenses can be obtained from the city central permit office with an application and two-week processing period.
However, individuals with these licenses do not necessarily stick to the rules. Illegal snow dumping is an annual concern for residents, as local plowers push snow to inconvenient locations, like the end of a neighbor’s driveway or onto a sidewalk. Between the lack of city plows and illegal dumping, snow management frustrations are making an early peak this November.
However, as of Monday, November 19, the city government was considering scrapping the snow plow license requirement altogether. Some councilors, Like Micheal Greene, were leaning towards eliminating the license requirement because the fees discouraged new plow drivers from registering and raised plow service prices. Others, like Corey Driscoll Dunham, said the licenses were necessary for curbing illegal snow dumping.
Whether or not the council decides to end the licensing requirement, if Syracuse doesn’t get its snowplow fleet back to full force, the next storm will leave citizens with no choice but to remove the snow themselves.