HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – People driving in Huntington on Tuesday faced some roads that were still covered after Monday’s storm, the biggest the city says it has seen in nearly 20 years.
“We're kind of at a standstill,” Jim Insco, the city’s assistant public works director, said. “Mother Nature kind of got us a little bit.”
The city of Huntington is responsible for maintaining and plowing close to 200 miles of paved streets, but some of the major roads are owned and maintained by the state – 3rd Avenue, 5th Avenue, 8th Avenue, 5th Street, 8th Street, Hal Greer Boulevard and Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
Insco tells WSAZ.com the city’s four salt trucks that double as snow plows couldn’t keep up with the snowfall.
“It really just came down faster than we could handle. We'd go through a road, plow it, salt it, come back through and it wouldn't even look like we'd been there,” Insco said.
Insco said the city received phone calls from people wondering why their streets weren’t plowed. Linda Blough, president of the Highlawn Neighborhood Association, said the streets in her part of town were covered in snow.
"Yesterday was a disaster,” Blough said. “I never left the house all day, the car was snow-coated, the roads were just a mess.”
For a city of nearly 50,000 people, Huntington has fewer plows than cities about its size or even smaller in this area. In Charleston, which has a slightly larger population, the public works department tells WSAZ.com it has 17 plows. In Ashland, a city of 20,000 people, the streets department tells WSAZ.com there are six plows.
“Over the years, the budget constraints have not allowed us to invest in the plows,” Insco said. “The plows that we have have been sufficient, been adequate, and this kind of proves that we're not ready for a storm of this caliber.”
Cold temperatures meant salt was ineffective on city streets, so Insco said the city switched to cinders in order to help cars gain traction on the packed snow and ice. As of Tuesday evening, Insco said they planned to switch back to salt and continue plowing what sunshine melted during the day.
Blough said she was worried that would freeze over again as the temperatures dropped Tuesday night.
“It's going to melt and then just turn it to a sheet of ice in the morning,” Blough said. “They're operating on a limited budget, so I guess it’s just something that you learn to live with. I grew up in Chicago, so the side streets have always been an issue.”
Insco said the city began salting and pre-treating roads at 7 p.m. Sunday, just before the snow began. He said they would continue plowing until at least 11 p.m. Tuesday and then see how things looked before continuing.
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