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The City Journals

Obstacles for snowplows

Apr 03, 2018 03:24PM ● By Cassie Goff

A full crew of 12 drivers snowplow the city during snow events, assisted by additional staff members and officers. (Dan Metcalf/Cottonwood Heights)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

31.7 inches of snow has fallen on Cottonwood Heights during these first few months of 2018. The most significant storm so far started on Sunday, Feb. 18 and lasted until Tuesday, Feb. 20, where 20 inches of snow fell. Since this was only the second storm of the entire winter season, the Cottonwood Heights Public Works Department was anxious to get plowing. 

“We did anticipate a long duration of the storm,” said Public Works Director Matt Shipp.

The snow started falling around 8:30 p.m. Sunday night, at which point the public works team began the process of snowplowing the city. Twelve drivers, along with additional city staff members, piled into plows which were staged and ready to go. Four one-ton trucks, six bobtails and four 10-wheelers were used.  

The crew set out on their assigned routes and ran into some obstacles rather quickly. Since the storm was continuous, by the time drivers plowed the entirety of their assigned routes, the roads were covered with snow again. It was difficult for drivers to plow other residential roads within the city while needing to re-plow the main arterial roads over and over again.

Drivers ran into another obstacle Monday morning. Since there was fresh snowfall on a holiday, many skiers and snowboarders were trying to rush up the canyon to the resorts.

“The canyons were shut down, which backed things up quite a bit,” Shipp said.

When the canyons are closed, ski traffic bleeds into many of the city’s arterial roads. Cars line up bumper to bumper along Bengal Boulevard, Wasatch Boulevard and Fort Union Boulevard waiting for the canyons to open. Many connecting roads like Kings Hill Drive, Racquet Club Drive, Prospector Drive, Macintosh Lane, Greenhills Drive and Danish Road can also become extremely crowded.

“Trucks can’t plow on those streets,” Shipp said.

As the continuous snowfall and ski traffic began to clear, plow drivers were able to clear more roads within the city. Just as the drivers were feeling optimistic about snowplowing, they were met with another obstacle.

“We went through a lake effect that came in after we started the clean-up phase,” Shipp said. “We had to start over quite a bit.”

Even though the lake effect dropped another four to five inches of snow throughout the city, the crew got the roads clear within the initial 24-hour mark after the snow stopped falling.

The snowplowing team has a goal “to have all streets cleared 24 hours after the end of a storm,” Shipp said.

“We tried to have full coverage during peak times,” Shipp said. The crew was fully staffed during morning and evening traffic, but since the storm lasted longer than any work shift should last, the public works management needed to decide how to disseminate the crew appropriately.

“We can run men 16 hours before we have to give them a break,” Shipp said. “The crew was very dedicated.”

Two additional storms with significant snowfall have since moved across the Wasatch Front. Cottonwood Heights received another five inches of snow on Feb. 23. The last storm began on Saturday, March 3 and stretched into Sunday March 4, dropping eight inches of snow.

During that storm, the crew “traveled about 2,100 miles for the snowstorm,” Shipp said. “Last time it was double that.”

For this storm, the Cottonwood Heights Police Department officers corresponded with the public works team to help in different capacities. Some officers hopped in plows to help clear cul-de-sacs throughout the city. Others responded to cars parked in the street, which is a constant obstacle for drivers.  

Since there was less snowfall this year than in 2017, plowing resources were not as significant. During the month of January 2017, the Public Works Department used about 3,500 tons of salt.

“Salt consumption will be down this year,” Shipp said. During the month of February, only about 600 tons of salt was needed for snow removal.

The first time snow removal services and resources were needed in a substantial manner during 2018 was for the storm in January, which occurred the weekend of the 19–20, with nine inches of snowfall.


To learn more about about the Public Works Department, visit their page on the city’s website.

To learn more about snowplowing in Cottonwood Heights, visit here.

To see a map of the priority streets for snow removal in the city, visit here.

To read the Cottonwood Heights Snow Removal Policies and Procedures, visit here.