MEDFORD, Ore. – Days after the storm, hazardous roads continue to cause nightmares for drivers and roads departments. Officials with Jackson County Roads say this isn’t the most snow they’ve handled in the valley, but the cold has turned out to be their worst enemy.
Tuesday, the Jackson County Roads Department started sanding roads at 4 A.M. The department has shifted from plowing and sanding until all of the sanding is complete.
The Jackson county roads department handles all the snow outside city limits. A typical snowstorm won’t leave any accumulation below 2,000 feet, leaving them with about 50-60 miles of mountain roads to plow.
Right now, they have 960 miles — and 14 plows to clear it.
“The bottom line is we are not staffed or equipped to cover a valley wide event like this,” said John Vial, Director of the Jackson County Parks and Roads Department.
And it isn’t just a matter of sheer mileage. Many of the roads have been plowed multiple times, not because of the snow but the ice.
“These plows aren’t that heavy so they’re not going to cut it off,” said snow plow driver Tyrone Raber. “So right now it’s just sanding as much as we can.”
So far the department has spent around $30,000 on gravel and materials — not including fuel or maintenance. But that’s nothing compared to the 620 hours of overtime they have to cover from Friday and Saturday alone.
“Most of the guys probably put in 15-18 hours on Friday, and probably 12-14 each day Saturday and Sunday,” said Raber.
Meanwhile cities are mostly on their own for everything inside their borders. Some, like Ashland, have worse conditions than other parts of the county. Ashland has about 100 miles of roads in total, but almost no visible pavement.
Their four plows have been patrolling nearly 24-hours a day. But the higher snow levels, steep hills, and, most importantly, colder temperatures have them outmatched.
“Temperature was dropping on Friday in what looked like 10-degree increments. It just froze solid fast,” said Ashland Public Works Street Supervisor John Peterson.
Now just about every roads department is following the same strategy, keep dumping gravel until nature lends them a hand — no matter the cost.
“Our resources are being put trying to keep the roads safe and we’ll make adjustments to the budget when the storm’s over,” said Vial.