Battling Mother Nature: Road Commission already set for onslaught of early winter

Dennis Mansfield, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Like many, the Kalkaska County Road Commission was still completing some of its fall chores, primarily shaping local gravel roads, before snowy weather had it shifting gears.


KALKASKA – Yes, winter seems to have arrived early this year. But, no, it didn’t catch the Kalkaska County Road Commission off guard.

According to the calendar, the first day of winter isn’t until Dec. 21. But, Mother Nature got a head start this year, with snowflakes flying throughout northern Michigan as early as Halloween.

“Oh, yes, this is definite early,” said John Rogers, KCRC manager. “Usually, in early November, the snowfall is hit or miss. But, it doesn’t stick around too long.”

The exception might be this fall, with residents already having to trade their rakes in for shovels.

Like many, the KCRC was still completing some of its fall chores, primarily shaping local gravel roads, before snowy weather had it shifting gears. Not that KCRC officials weren’t ready.

“For the most part, the weather forecasts were pretty accurate,” Rogers said. “I don’t know if you want to call it optimistic or pessimistic, but winter, ready or not, is here.

“Winter just became our No. 1 priority,” he added. “Hunker down. It’s going to be a long one.”

The KCRC had already started to employ a seasonal afternoon shift in late October in preparation. However, winter did seem to beat the road commission’s use of a night shift, which won’t begin until next week.

“We use seasonal employees to help fill out our routes,” Rogers said. “Normally, we don’t have those people on board till mid-November.”

While the early snowfall may have cost the KCRC a little overtime pay, Rogers added that the county agency was ready and “plans for the worst-case scenario.” That includes purchasing up to 4,500 tons of road salt.

“When it’s cold, 15 degrees or less, salt is not as effective and we use less,” he said. “But, when it’s 20 degrees or more and snowing, that’s when we burn through the salt.”

And, according to Rogers, the KCRC is somewhat handicapped because it doesn’t have enough storage for all of the salt it pre-buys for winter. That causes the KCRC to pay as much as $4 to $5 per ton.

“You can see where that adds up,” he said. “(And) we’re at the mercy of the trucking companies when we have to use large quantities of salt all at once.”

Again, planning helps.

“Right now, I don’t have any concerns,” Rogers said. “We’re in pretty good shape because of our planning.”

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