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Motorists urged to be patient with plows during snowstorms

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2013 7:43 p.m. MST

Snowplows work Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, to clear streets in Salt Lake City following a snowstorm that began on Sunday.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As the Wasatch Front endured yet another heavy snowstorm Sunday night and Monday morning, state, county and city officials urged Utahns to stay patient with road conditions.

Salt Lake City spokesman Art Raymond said commuters should use common sense when planning their travel and consider which roads are likely to be cleared first and which could be dangerous.

"We place a high priority on roads that give access to essential services such as hospitals and police stations," Raymond said. "The roads may get slow, but they're clearer than taking the back way."

Salt Lake City's highest priority roadways include Second, Third and 11th avenues; and 400 South, 500 South, 600 South and 900 South. State roads including 700 East, 4500 South and State Street also are high-priority roads in Utah's capital city, but they're maintained by the Utah Department of Transportation.

UDOT also prioritizes snow removal. Freeways and essential services roadways are the highest priority, followed by key state roads such as State Street.

UDOT spokesman John Gleason said it's important to for residents to remember that various roads that intersect within the same neighborhood may fall under different jurisdictions, especially when they are calling to make a request or complaint.

"Our responsibilities are fairly consistent, but sometimes it can be confusing to residents," Gleason said. "People will sometimes look out the front door and see their little side street not plowed, and they'll call UDOT." 

UDOT operates about 300 snow removal vehicles along the Wasatch Front. Snowplow drivers typically work 16-hour shifts, the longest consecutive period under law they are allowed to work, officials said.

Salt Lake County Public Works covers a wide swath of unincorporated area, and the county's priorities can shift depending on the geography of the storm, spokesman Kevyn Smeltzer said.

"The main factor besides traffic that dictates (priorities in snow removal) is the location," Smeltzer said. "If the west side of the county wasn't hit very hard but the east side was, we'll send some of our west-side snowplows over to help out."

Keeping roads clear of snow has been especially difficult during recent storms because much of the snow has fallen during peak travel hours. The rush-hour timing has further complicated the daily commute and made it more difficult to pre-treat road conditions, public works officials said. 

"The reason why it's so slick … is the fact that (the snow is) hard-packed," said Mike Russell, who drives a snowplow in South Salt Lake. "People are driving on it before the snowplows come out, (and that has) created a hard-packed condition. Once its hard-packed, it's really difficult … to scrape it from the road."

E-mail: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @benlockhart89

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