The Owasso Public Works Department has been working overtime to help clear slick streets and address various problems caused by this week’s winter storm.
Owasso has accumulated 2.3 inches of snow as of Tuesday night, according to the latest figures provided by the National Weather Service of Tulsa, making travel difficult amid days of freezing temperatures and dangerous wind chills.
As such, Owasso PWD’s snow and ice control program has been operating 24 hours for the last nine days, department director Roger Stevens said at City Council on Tuesday.
“Typically we use about 100 tons of salt and sand during the wintertime,” Stevens said. “Well, these past nine days, we’ve already used over 300 tons of salt and sand, and that’s counting as we speak.”
PWD currently has 100 more tons of salt and sand on stock, and another 50 tons coming by Thursday, with crews continuing 24-hour operations until all the roads are clear.
The record freezing temperatures across the Tulsa area, which plummeted to seven below zero on Monday, the NWS reports, froze the product in the back of the department’s salt spreaders — a challenge that Stevens said delayed operations for a short time.
“It basically turned into about like concrete, so we couldn’t utilize the spreaders; all we could utilize was the plow,” he said. “… Then we had to take the spreaders, the trucks, into a heated bay, which the Fire Department helped us out with.”
Now that PWD is fully operational again, Stevens tentatively expects many of the roads across the city to be cleared by Thursday and no later than Friday.
The department has received over 100 calls from citizens about freezing water pipes, and has responded to three major line breaks across the city since the beginning of last week. Although a low count, Stevens said, the disruptions have still posed a danger to his crews amid the frigid conditions.
“That is an environment that’s very difficult to work in,” Stevens said. “You got to rotate someone about every seven to 10 minutes in and out of the truck, and you got four or five rotating at one time, and that’s about all you can handle before you got to get back in the truck and warm up.”
On Tuesday, for example, the cold temperatures caused two valves on the Bailey Ranch water tank to freeze and split their casting. Crews have been working to drain the tank and redirect an alternative water feed from Tulsa, which will allow residents to maintain high pressure until the necessary repairs are made.
“Yes, there’s been a lot of challenges,” Stevens said, “but we got a great staff, and every challenge that has become before them, they have overcome it tremendously, so very pleased.”
Owasso Manager Warren Lehr added, “I couldn’t be more pleased with all of our departments for the way they’ve had to respond in one way or another to this weather event; they’ve done very well, very proud.”