Yakima drivers trudged through some snow and sludge after the first substantial snowfall of the season, but most well-traveled routes were clear as of Wednesday.
The city’s plan for ice and snow removal is working as it should, city spokesperson Randy Beehler said.
“Today’s a really good example of how it worked well,” Beehler said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a combination of that liquid de-icer and also warmer temperatures and people traveling on roads. Most of the roads are pretty clear by now.”
When there’s a snow or ice storm in the forecast, city crews apply liquid de-icer to roadways in advance of the storm to ease hazards for drivers, Beehler said.
He added that the 2 to 4 inches of snow in the Yakima Valley on Wednesday wasn't enough to warrant plows in the city. The city’s snow removal plan calls for plows once 3 or more inches have accumulated.
When the city gets 3 or more inches, the city issues a snow route alert, which notifies residents to remove vehicles from snow routes so plows can move through safely and efficiently, Beehler said.
Snow plow routes are outlined in a map on the city’s website. Beehler said the plan prioritizes arterial streets, as well as areas around hospitals, police and fire stations, and schools. Hilly areas are another priority, he said.
So far in calendar year 2022, the city of Yakima has spent about $284,000 on snow removal, Beehler said.
About $373,000 was budgeted for the year, and the city is on budget, Beehler said. He emphasized the budgeted amount is just an estimate for what the city will spend, and final costs are largely weather-dependent.
“We would not stop doing snow and ice removal just because it had exceeded the cost and it had exceeded the amount that we had budgeted,” he said. “We would get that money from someplace else in the budget.”
The city put aside more money — about $430,000 — for snow and ice removal in 2023.
The primary reason for the increase is the higher cost for fuel, liquid de-icer and other materials like sand that have been affected by inflation or supply chain issues, Beehler said.
“Even though in the last several weeks, fuel costs have been declining, when we’re putting together the budget … a lot of what our budgeting is based on is what our economic conditions are at a given time,” he said. “It's not locked in stone. It's not as if we would spend all of that money, unless we have to”
Snow removal reminders
Beehler shared several other tips and reminders for Yakima residents as winter approaches.
• Whether a property is a business or a home, the owner is responsible for clearing adjacent sidewalks, including ramps to the street so pedestrians can cross.
• It is unlawful to deposit snow from a sidewalk or driveway into the roadway, where it could impede traffic.
• The best time to shovel snow is immediately after it falls, before it is compacted and before ice can form, he said.
• Beehler said the city recommends people use calcium chloride as an ice-melting substance instead of using sodium chloride or rock salt. Calcium chloride is less damaging to sidewalks and plants, he said, and it is more effective in freezing conditions.
• He asked that property owners clear snow and ice around any fire hydrants on or near their property. Clearing a perimeter around the fire hydrant and clearing a path to the street will allow firefighters to access the hydrant in an emergency.
He said all the reminders follow the general reminder the city has during winter weather: “Be good neighbors. Be community minded.”
Beehler encouraged people to help their elderly or infirmed neighbors remove snow and ice from their sidewalks and driveway.
“It’s just being neighborly,” he said.