Local agencies revise snow response plans ahead of winter weather

Posted at 5:10 PM, Oct 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-24 19:07:04-04

'Snowmageddon,' 'Snowpocalypse,' any way you name it, Idaho got a lot of snow last winter. 

More than 39 inches of snow fell in Boise -- double the city's average snowfall; and in McCall and Cascade, more than 100 inches of the white stuff. 

"We were expecting snow...we always expect snow in Idaho," said Jay Breidenbach, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boise. "...but that maybe exceeded our expectations a little bit."

Breidenbach says La Niña contributed to last year's massive snowfalls, and forecasters are on a La Niña watch again this year. 

"If the jet stream brings a series of storms in, like it did last year, we could see quite a bit of snow again," Breidenbach said. 

Which would mean snowy streets and roadways. 

"ACHD has put many new plans in place to handle another winter like last winter," said Nicole DuBois, ACHD spokeswoman.

The organization has added 14 new snowplows, five new team members to tackle winter operations and two new clean-up routes. 

ACHD will also dye its salt with a blue-colored food-grade dye. It will show which areas have been salted, allowing operators to see their spread patterns and make adjustments, if needed.

But perhaps the biggest news from ACHD -- the addition of residential streets to its priority list, on an as-needed basis. 

"If we have a large accumulation of snow, coupled with subfreezing temperatures and the knowledge that another storm is on the way...more precipitation is on the way...then we'll be plowing residential streets, including culdesacs," DuBois said.

Cities have re-evaluated their response to a major snow storm, too.

The City of Nampa wll spend around $82,000 on salt, after using it for the first time last winter. 

"We purchased a salt shed, we purchased salt, so that's going to come in to be able to address the long-term cold," said Michael Fuss, Public Works Director for the City of Nampa. "We're also working with local contractors to get them to bring that assistance on quicker." 

Last winter, the city spent double its budget of $60,000 for contracted assistance, which deferred some summer street projects.

"We reduced the amount of chip sealing process that we did, we reduced a couple of storm drainage projects, so that they could be pushed forward," Fuss said. "We'll do them later, but we didn't have the budget to complete them this year."

All in all, city leaders say about $600,000 more than average was spent dealing with last year's epic snowfall in Nampa. 

While it's hard to say just how much snow we'll get this winter, experts say if you like to gamble, bet on an "above average" cold, wet winter.

"Even if we have slightly above normal temperatures this winter, that's still going to be cold enough to snow once we get into December, January and February," Breidenbach said.