While many rejoiced in the Sooner Stateís first few delicious flurries of snow, thereís also a thin line between holiday bliss and snowstorm stress. Though we havenít pulled out the snow shovels or chunky rock-salt quite yet ó it has actually been a terrifically mild winter thus far ó deep winter is likely nipping at our heels. And with our poetic enjoyments, like say, peppermint mochas and holiday lights, comes treacherous weather and safety concerns.
Before weíre caught with our long johns down, the city is checking their list ó and checking it twice, for Santa-certified service ó to make sure Tulsans are prepped for the cold, dark months ahead. And by prepped, weíre not necessarily referring to that secret stash of cheap rum, Godiva dark chocolate and caramel truffles, and turbo-charged NyQuil under your bed (where the kids can't find 'em).
We're talking a little more practical battening down of hatches, perhaps. During the super-hot unbearable summer, our faithful public servants down at City Hall were making some key purchases and plans to make sure T-Town streets will be drivable this winter. Try to take some comfort in the fact that the city of Tulsa has a plan of action, especially once those only-in-Oklahoma, stabby-frosty-icicle blizz-storms come raging down the plain (remember, we only said try).
Some of our readers said they were stockpiling sleds, food staples and hot chocolate, while Tulsa performer Justin McKean said he's not stressed about upcoming winter weather. "I'm getting ready by having my boots repaired... And, of course, as a bald man I'm making sure to have something for my head."
Tulsa Community College instructor Beverly Bailey told UTW last year's storm "convinced me to get serious. I put together a storm kit and bought a real snow shovel. Three hours of clumsily shoveling a driveway with a regular garden shovel can be an inspiration."
Other UTW readers are more fashion-forward. Legal assistant Annie McDonald said, "My only prep work was my mission to find functional, yet totally stylish snow boots for the next snow storm.
"I found the first pair I wanted at Victoria's Secret for $140, and felt completely defeated...until I found the same boots at Marshalls for $60," she said.
Meanwhile back at City Hall, Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. announced that more trucks and snowplows were added to the city's fleet. Meanwhile, Tulsa Police Department now has 17 more four-wheel-drive vehicles than last year. Bartlett said the city is working hard to avoid a repeat of Feb. 2011's Blizzard O' Fury, which effectively shut down big chunks of Tulsa for days.
"We put together a task force after last year's record winter storms to look at what we can do better to help Tulsa deal with snow and ice and winter weather," Bartlett said.
"Our streets maintenance managers, the police and fire departments and other emergency responders, the airports and other agencies have all been involved in the discussions," Bartlett said.
The Long Haul
"Every mile is two in winter." This quote by English poet George Hebert says it all. Before roads are cleared and salted, a mile on icy Tulsa roads can feel like two...or three, or more. Even worse, a mile may be impassable without the cooperation of the three different entities working together to clear roadways.
The City of Tulsa, Tulsa County and Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) take a divide and conquer approach to wicked winter snows and ices. The city handles all the main streets in T-Town proper, plus certain parts of our expressway system, while the county clears the outer reaches of the Tulsa Metro Area; ODOT takes care of the rest of Tulsa's expressways.
This year, the snow and ice clearing routes have been redrawn for maximum blizzard-busting. Check out the new routes on the city's website.
In years past, most road-clearing efforts have focused on important arterial streets, while important secondary streets were left untouched for longer periods of time. But this year, the city has added more collector streets to its clearing routes to help people access schools, hospitals and other vital facilities.
Tulsa County spokesperson Michael Willis said, "Our crews stand ready to go to work clearing streets at a moment's notice. We have plows and graters for snow removal, while we also have salt and sand to spread on icy roads for traction."
The top priorities for county workers are "section line and heavy traffic streets, including those regularly used by emergency vehicles," Willis said. "But we do our best to treat all county roads and bridges during snow or ice events."
Tulsa County handles 725 miles of road and 184 bridges throughout the area, which meant a lot of hard work during last year's blizzard. "During the last heavy snow event, we had workers going non-stop," Willis said. "Some were even sleeping at the county barns to be able to get back to work quickly, and to keep the operation going until the job was done."
Now that's dedication!
The city has also hired private contractors to assist in speedy deployment if another fierce winter storm blows in. These contractors will help clear streets and tow stranded vehicles. Another emergency services contract is in place to enable rapid clearing of parking lots at strategic facilities like police and fire stations.
The city has also amassed a larger stockpile of plows and salt to combat winter weather. At the outset of last year's winter season, the city stockpiled about 9,600 tons of salt. This year, however, they've bumped that number up to around 14,500 tons, and added a new salt storage facility at Tulsa's east maintenance yard.
To aid efficiency and spread all that salt around, the city of Tulsa's streets and stormwater department purchased five new plows and seven new spreader trucks, bringing the total up to 44 plows and 62 trucks. The new purchases should roll into use early in 2012.
The spreaders are assigned to 35 specific routes, totaling 1,742 lane-miles, according to the city's website; while about 160 employees -- both drivers and support staff -- will be on hand to get winter under control this season.
If you need information on winter storm operations, call the city's 24-hour hotline at 918-596-9711.
"I prefer the winter and fall," wrote American realist painter and visual artist Andrew Wyeth, "when you feel the bone structure of the landscape -- the loneliness, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."
Take care, enjoy, be safe.
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