Des Moines Council told ’Snowmageddon’ met & tamed, leaving lessons for future


By Jack Mayne

The February snow storm cost thousands but the Des Moines City Council was told on Thursday night (Feb. 21) that the city was well prepared but it needs to be “more self-reliant” for future and potentially more disastrous events, such as an earthquake

Council was told that city crews only had a single day off during a 19-day period, most of the time working 12 hours on, 12 hours off.

Councilmember Jeremy Nutting said his city was apparently better prepared than surrounding communities.

“Once you got to the boundary lines of Des Moines, you knew you were not in Des Moines any more, you were in a wasteland,” Nutting said.

The Council will consider a revision of the budget at a later time.

Need more money
Chief Operations Officer Dan Brewer (pictured above with City Manager Michael Matthias) gave the Des Moines City Council a report on the recent area-wide snow storm and said the city is well prepared for another storm, having, as usual, begun snow storm plans in November.

The storm, at first look, cost the city $37,355 “and counting.” The city’s current budget has just $10,000 for storm costs this year, and overtime for the storm was $3,500 but the storm cost $27,250.

“We are definitely going to need a budget amendment, probably in the tune of around $50,000.

He said the city staff will meet soon to go over the storm events because “we always want to improve things — how can the next event run smoother or safer. We are lucky we didn’t have any injuries.”

One of the biggest problems, he said, was the lack of materials needed in such a storm, “we just can’t get them.”

More self-reliant
“We discovered we must be much more self-reliant here,” Brewer said. “We just couldn’t just get materials that we needed quick enough — even for this little, tiny snow storm. Let’s face it, this was impactful but it is nothing like a more significant event, earthquake or whatever, where we are not going to get salt or sand, whatever we need in four days. We need to look at stockpiling gravel, sand and things like that because you are just not going to get it in a big earthquake

“We’ve got three large snow plows, we’ve got four or five smaller pickup plows … and a sander in a pickup … and all of the bigger truck have sanders,” Brewer said, adding the city has deicer brine available.

Snow events are all about “response to recovery,” coordinating efforts and being prepared, he said, noting they have major routes for emergency vehicles “that we focus on and we don’t come off on those until those roads are maintained in good shape.” Brewer said the city also focuses on transit route that are in more demand during snow events. Solid waste pickup is also a priority, he said.

Citizens can follow the event on the city’s website “snow tracker” where the city has worked, what conditions are and other information, he said. Residents call also see some of the areas on video from cameras around sensitive areas.

Brewer said the city has problems getting more sand and chains to replace broken one between the first snow fall and the second event on Friday night. He said it affects city crews to get the streets clear only to have more snow required them to start all over again.

The city also coordinated with Recology for garbage pickups by Tuesday and because of clearing by city crews, Brewer said Recology was able to get 84 percent of its pickups on North Hill. “We were the only city that they were working in that day because of the effort we coordinated with them.”

Just after the storm, the city immediately ordered all depleted sand, brine, getting their orders in ahead of other cities, then city workers fixed equipment and replaced needed material so it would be ready for another storm, he said.

“Over that 10-day period, we had at least 24 inches of snow over multiple events and it was really challenging for us to deal with that,” Brewer said. “Our emergency management system really paid off.”


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