Nevada County workers scramble to clear roads of snow, ice

The Nevada County Director of Public Works is no stranger to coordinating efforts to clear western Nevada County’s roads of snow and ice.

It’s a huge part of his job.

However, starting Friday evening, the combination of large snow loads and the abnormally low snow levels made his task a tad more arduous than normal.

“We have the higher elevations pretty dialed in, but what throws us is when the snow gets down to Combie and McCourtney roads,” said Steve Castleberry. “We don’t normally get snow down there.”

The lower elevation areas of western Nevada County received significant snow accumulation for the first time in four years, said Johnnie Powell of the National Weather Service.

Bitter temperatures brought snow levels down to 500 feet for much of Northern California, the weather service said.

Even a few flakes fell in the Central Valley, but nothing stuck, Powell said.

While the uncommon event was celebrated throughout the county, Castleberry faced the prospect of having to plow more than 300 miles of road with a staff configured to address significantly less than that.

So Castleberry used his mechanics, who usually hang back and repair equipment, to drive the plows and de-icers.

“We had five extra trucks out,” Castleberry said. “Our mechanics did yeomen’s jobs out there. They did a great job.”

The storm subsided Saturday afternoon, but the county road maintenance division continues to grapple with pockets of ice-covered roadways throughout the county due to the persistence of cold temperatures.

“There’s still work,” Castleberry said Tuesday.

“Particularly on roads where we leave a snowpack, we use the two or three afternoon hours where the ice gets soft enough to remove.”

Public Works has unfurled a new way to tackle icy roads, using a saltwater brine that is cheaper than sand and that also continues to act as anti-freeze for a longer duration.

However, the department is still experimenting with the solution and remains unsure of its effectiveness when it comes to dispersing snow.

Castleberry said when the temperature delves below 22 degrees, sand is more effective on ice.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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The Union Updated Dec 11, 2013 12:30PM Published Dec 16, 2013 03:50PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.