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Archive for the ‘Storm’ Category

Portadam Cover 5-12-14

The Port-A-Dam deployed across the Rosemont side of the Beaver Brook bridge.

On Tuesday May 20 and Wednesday May 21 a City flood emergency team will conduct a flood training exercise.  The team, with members from Fire, Public Works and Wastewater, will do a dry run installation of both the stop log wall and the Port-A-Dam systems on opposite sides of the bridge over Beaver Brook on Martin and Beaver Streets.

The stop log wall system was built by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the dike system on the Centralville side of the brook.  The Port-A-Dam system was purchased by the City in 2009 and is used on the Pawtucketville bank to help protect the Rosemont neighborhood.

“While we hope that these temporary dams never again need to be utilized, it is important that our flood response team conduct regular training on their installation,” said City Manager Kevin Murphy.  “Should the need arise, we will be prepared to respond and install these dams quickly to minimize damage to our neighborhoods.”

During these exercises the Beaver Brook bridge and approaches will be closed to through traffic from 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. as team members prepare, install and dismantle the structures.

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Cirus Salt System controls.

Cirus Salt System controls.

Over the 2011/12 winter season, the City had snowfall of 23.9 inches and used 6,571 tons of road salt to keep roads clear; this past season (as of February 24) the City has had 72.9 inches of snow and used 9,605 tons of salt. On a tons per inch basis, the drop in usage is significant and has resulted in a savings of $994,842 over the last three seasons.

These dramatic savings have been made possible through the acquisition of new vehicles and the installation of electronic salt control systems that monitor road temperature and other factors and adjust the spread rate accordingly.  It also reduces the amount of salt spread when a truck slows down or shuts off the spreader completely when a truck comes to a stop, eliminating uneven distribution and over salting.  In total, 24 trucks have been equipped with this system, each at a cost of about $8,300 per truck for a total investment of about $200,000. These purchases were part of the City’s capital plan.

Based on the cost of salt of $50.88 per ton, this investment has resulted in a five-fold savings of $1 million.  In FY 13 the City saved $463,692; so far in FY 14, another $531,150 compared to FY 12.  More savings are expected as additional vehicles are outfitted over the next few years.

Plow/salter clearing snow February 13.

Plow/salter clearing snow February 13.

Over the last three seasons, salt usage dropped by 46% when measured in tons per inch of snow.  This drop is especially significant given the tripling of snowfall during the same period.  This year, salt usage per inch of snow is down another 11%.

The following summarizes year-to-year numbers:

FY 12: 6,571.3 tons of salt; 23.9 inches of snow; 275 tons per inch
FY 13: 10,713.1 tons of salt; 72.1 inches of snow; 148.6 tons per inch
FY 14: 9,605.55 tons of salt; 72.9 inches of snow; 131.8 tons per inch (as of 2/24/14)

“Our capital plan is clearly paying dividends,” said City Manager Bernie Lynch.  “With the City Council’s support, we’ve been able to continue to replace our aging public works fleet and to include the latest technology for monitoring winter storm conditions and salt distribution.  Our return on this investment is dramatic and has the added benefit of reducing the amount of salt runoff into rivers, streams and residents’ yards.”

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WINTER STORM TIPS

The series of storms Massachusetts has been receiving continue to present a variety of challenges.  Following are a number of important helpful tips to consider regarding the dangers of roof collapses, power outages and traveling.

ROOF COLLAPSE

• As the snow on most roofs has frozen, removing any new snow and its additional weight will be very important.
• If not cleared off, snow piled high on roofs can act as a sponge, absorbing any rain, which we might receive, adding additional stress to structures.
• Relatively flat roofs are particularly vulnerable.
• In many other cases, roof ice dams have formed causing water build-up, leading to interior damage.
• Be on the alert for large accumulating snow build-up or snowdrifts.
• If roof snow can be removed or ice dams broken up safely from the ground with the use of a snow rake (available at most hardware stores), do so.
• Avoid working from ladders, as ladder rungs tend to ice up, snow and ice collect on boot soles, and metal ladders and snow rakes conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line.
• Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.
• Flat roofs can be shoveled clear, but only if it is determined that the roof is safe to stand upon. Exercise care when on the roof to avoid potentially dangerous falls.
• Flat roof drainage systems should be kept clear to minimize the risk of excess roof ponding in the event of subsequent heavy rainfall or melting.
• Large icicles can form on roof overhangs, but do not necessarily mean ice damming is occurring. Icicles overhanging walkways can be dangerous and should be carefully removed.
• All of the above actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults. The snow is heavy, and roofs and other surfaces may be slippery.

LOSS OF POWER

• Wet snow can transition to sleet and freezing rain, leading to possible ice buildup on trees and powerlines.  This has the potential to cause power outages. The weight of a one-half inch build-up can be enough to snap tree limbs, causing them to fall and bring down power lines disrupting electrical service.
• The use of candles is strongly discouraged.
• Ensure you have a well-stocked Emergency Supply Kit in case you lose power for an extended period.  It should include a flashlight, portable radio, extra batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water, first aid kit, prescription drugs, etc.).
• If utilizing an emergency generator, read, understand and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Always operate emergency generators outdoors and away from any open window.  Make sure your generator is properly installed and grounded as you may be liable for damage or injury to other people and property that may result from improperly installed or operated equipment.
• Ensure that your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors are working correctly and have fresh batteries.
• Check your outside fuel and dryer exhaust vents, making sure that they are not obstructed by snow or ice. Never use cooking equipment intended for outside use indoors as a heat source or cooking device. Never use your oven for heat.
• Space heaters need space, so use them in a 3-foot circle of safety, free of anything that catch fire. Space heaters are not designed to replace your central heating system, they are only designed to provide a little extra heat on a temporary basis. So be sure to turn them off when you leave room or go to bed at night.
• If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets.
• Let water drip a trickle to prevent pipes from freezing and open cupboards under sinks to let heat circulate around the pipes.
• If pipes freeze, remove insulation, completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they are most exposed to the cold.
• Be extra cautious if you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm.  Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by snowdrifts, trees or debris, and could be live.  Never attempt to touch or move downed lines.  Treat a downed wire as a live wire.
• Questions or issues should be directed to Mass 2-1-1.
• Be a Good Neighbor and check on the elderly or infirm who live around you.

ROAD SAFETY

• The public is urged to stay off the roads. Obviously, road conditions will be hazardous to drivers. Additionally, the lower the traffic volume, the easier it will be for cleanup crews to do their jobs and for emergency vehicles to reach people in distress.
• The high snow banks and narrow streets present many dangers, such as cross-traffic pulling out in front of you unexpectedly, and children waiting at school bus stops or playing on snow banks.
• Utilize Public Transportation when possible.
• For those who have to drive, we urge them to drive slowly and, because stopping times will be compromised, to leave a great deal of space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them (at least 4 vehicle lengths).
• Motorists on all state highways and roadways should be aware that State Police will consider the weather conditions when determining what speed is reasonable. In cases of severe inclement weather, the posted speed limit is clearly not a reasonable speed. State Police urge motorists on all state highways and roadways to driver under 40 mph during snow and ice events, and we will consider anyone exceeding that speed limit to have operating at a speed greater than reasonable and, in extreme cases, to be operating negligently, and we will take appropriate enforcement action.
• Likewise, State Police recommends that all truckers and drivers of tractor-trailer units to err on the side of caution and pull off state highways in severe inclement weather. Commercial carriers are urged to plan ahead to make appropriate scheduling changes to keep their own drivers and other motorists safe. In inclement weather certain highway exits and grade inclines are difficult for trucks to navigate safely.
• Drivers should have a cellular phone with them, and if they get into distress, they should call 911 on the cell to be immediately contacted to a State Police Communications Center.
• Drivers should also have a blanket, warm clothing and flashlight with them in the case that they do get stranded and have to wait for emergency responders.
• Drivers who get stranded should stay with their motor vehicles if it is safe to do so (i.e., if the vehicle off to the side of the road in a safe place). Motorists who get stuck in snow banks should be aware of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if the snow is blocking their tailpipe, and take appropriate action by shutting the engine and opening a window.
• All motorists are reminded to clear snow and ice from their car windows, roofs and license plates. Failure to do so can cause a public safety hazard as snow and ice blows off and strikes other vehicles or hampers drivers’ visibility. Drivers who fail to properly clean their cars of snow or ice can be cited for impeded operation, for transporting an unsecured load, or for a license plate violation if snow obscures the license plate. For the same reasons, truckers are reminded to clear snow and ice from their roofs or trailer units.
• Motorists are warned to be extremely vigilant for pedestrians walking on streets made narrow by snow banks, and also to take great care and to go slowly when approaching intersections with limited visibility caused by snow banks.
• If possible help shovel out fire hydrants and storm drains on your street

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With apologies to Shakespeare, our winter has also been a challenge but for different reasons. Unless you like skiing and sledding or you sell shovels and snowblowers! Or you’re Lowla Bear! We can only hope that, despite what the calendar says, winter will soon give way to “glorious summer”. If not, City DPW crews remain ready to keep the worst of winter at bay.

Storm-14-2-13 (3)During the height of the latest storm, we took a ride with DPW spotters to get a front seat view of winter’s tempest. It was eye opening as we travelled up and down the hills of Centralville, through Belvidere and across downtown in near whiteout conditions.

For the most part residents were heeding the parking ban which made a big difference as plows tried to keep up with a 2-3 inch-an-hour snowfall rate during an early rush hour. We crisscrossed sanders and plows of all sizes whose priority at that point in storm operations was to keep a travel lane open. Unusual or dangerous conditions, blockages or hidden side streets not yet plowed were called in for attention.

After just a couple hours, it was difficult to imagine staying awake for 18 to 24 hours navigatingStorm-14-2-13 (5) city streets. With new equipment, including plows and sanders equipped with the latest temperature sensing and communications technology, DPW has new tools in their ongoing battle with winter. Operations will continue and move to cleanup phase as crews get back from much needed (and required) rests.

For more information and a complete outline of snow operations click here.

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  1. Deputy Superintendent Deborah Friedl has declared a Snow Emergency Parking Ban on Saturday, December 14, 2013, at 10:00 AM. The ban shall be effective six hours later at 4:00 PM on Saturday, December 14, 2013.There shall be no parking on the City Streets from 4:00 PM. until such time that the ban is lifted. Motor vehicles parking in violation of such ban (City Ordinance, sec. 19-89) are subjec…t to towing under the authority of the Lowell Police Department and such towing will be at the owner’s expense (sec. 19-90). Motor Vehicles shall also receive a parking violation ticket.

    FREE Parking for City residents who do not have access to “off-street” parking during “Snow Emergency – Parking Ban” is available at:

    George Ayotte Parking Facility
    11 Post Office Square
    Lowell, MA 01852

    and

    Edward Early Jr. Garage
    135 Middlesex Street
    Lowell, MA 01852

    Once the “Snow Emergency” is lifted, any City of Lowell residents that have parked in the George Ayotte Parking Facility or the Edward Early Jr. Garage will have 2 hours to remove their vehicles from either facility without incurring any additional expenses. Vehicles not removed within two hours will be assessed a fee from that time until the vehicle is removed.

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No, this isn’t a health advisory although a 40% reduction in road salt used during winter storms will make for a healthier environment and a healthier snow and ice budget.

Cirus Salt System (1)New equipment installed to monitor and control salt output on the City’s salt trucks have resulted in a 40% reduction of salt usage in the first full year of operation. Twenty-one vehicles–a combination of new and existing winter fleet vehicles–have been equipped with the Cirus SpreadSmart salt control system. This system allows for the managed spread of salt at various levels to account for varying storm conditions as well as distinct neighborhood and road characteristics. Retrofitting the older vehicles cost $100,000; the savings in fiscal year 2013 alone has been $215,000.

Where the average truck output of salt per truck was 1,000 pounds per lane mile, it is now down to 350 pounds per lane mile, a far more efficient way to keep our roads safe during the winter.

Going forward, the Department of Public Works will be fine-tuning the system for even greater benefits. In addition, contractors with salters will be required to install the Cirus system on their vehicles by next winter, further reducing salt use and costs. Also in the works for next year is the addition of an agricultural based liquid product that will increase the effectiveness of the salt.

All of which will result in positive outcomes for our environment and our bottom line.

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Attention!

Tonight’s City Council meeting, scheduled for 6:30 PM, has been canceled due to adverse weather conditions.

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