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When will it end? Here's the strain snowfall has put on public works jobs

Around Red Wing, the public works department has worked to widen streets and remove as much snow as possible this winter. Here on West Seventh Street, a large wall of snow has formed between the curb and roadway. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 5
This photo was taken at the intersection of Jefferson and West Fifth streets from inside a vehicle. The large snow piles have made intersections dangerous for motorists, with Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman recommending to inch the intersection as carefully as possible to check oncoming traffic. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
Across the road from Bay Point Park has been a dumping ground for the Red Wing Public Works Department this winter. Piles of snow much larger than the trucks hauling the snow have begun to form, making it difficult to see Kelly's Taphouse Bar & Grill on the hill. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Removing 40,000 yards of snow will result in huge piles like this one. The Red Wing Public Works Department has been hard at work trying to clean and remove as much snow as possible this winter. Lynn Nardinger, the deputy director of public services at the public works department, said this winter they've hauled more snow than the past four winters combined. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 5
A mailbox on Pioneer Road is buried under a pile of snow on March 8. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 5

The Red Wing Public Works Department has hauled away more snow this winter than the last four winters combined.

Lynn Nardinger, the deputy director of public services for the Red Wing Public Works Department, said his crews have hauled 40,000 yards of snow this winter.

With a weekend snow storm again ready to hit the region, how will public works departments keep up with the demands and how will it affect their yearly budgets?

The county has declared a winter storm watch, with a projected 8-12 inches of snow accumulation this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. February saw record breaking snow totals for the state, reaching close to 50 inches in some areas.

Nardinger said the snow removal demand has made it difficult on the public works department, as staff has worked 10 or 12 hour shifts, starting at midnight or 2 a.m. in most cases, adding on weekend shifts as well.

On the mental state of his crews, Nardinger said some are becoming "stressed," having a hard time keeping up with the home responsibilities and erratic sleep schedule.

On days where it's not actually snowing, crews are running their usual routines, trying to play catch up as best as they can. Nardinger said he understands that residents may be frustrated by the condition of the streets, but asks for their patience.

The long, frequent hours also puts the department in a difficult budgetary position. Nardinger said the labor and snow removal budgets have been used up, forcing the department to look at other areas to move money around. After all, the money does have to last the entire year.

"It all comes down to the rest of March and April," Nardinger said. "We'll see what we get. Then depending on how November and December start in 2019, it'll determine how bad the budget will be."

Red Wing has not contracted with other companies, outside of their regular contracts, to remove the snow. Instead, public works has been hauling the snow to different locations around the city to get it out of the way. Areas near Bay Point Park and Twin Bluff Middle School have been a dumping ground that has piles upwards of 25 feet.

Intersections have seen large snow piles building as well, making it difficult for drivers to see.

Nardinger said public works have used snow blowers to take as much off the top of those piles as possible, but the constant snow accumulation has made it hard to keep up.

Recently in an "Ask the Chief" column, Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman was asked how residents can avoid getting into a car accident at intersections that have tall piles of snow blocking the driver's view.

Pohlman said to utilize 'The Creep', safely inching closer to the intersection and see if the roadway is safe to enter.

Aside from the hauling and large totals, Nardinger said the department has been discussing the upcoming warmer weather and possible flooding conditions as a result.

Removing ice and snow that is layered on the roadway has been next to impossible. The Public Works Department will be watching the eventual melting closely to make sure streets and the community flooding is minimal at best.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

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