Winter’s impact lingers on

ESCANABA – Winter has finally come to an end but the effects of a bitterly cold and abnormally long winter season are still being felt throughout the area.

This season brought 88.6 inches of snow to Escanaba according to records maintained by the Escanaba Water Plant. The only season with a greater total snowfall was the winter of ’95-96 when 90 inches fell in the city. Last year 68.05 inches fell.

While the city’s snow removal budget has remained in good shape according to City Manager Jim O’Toole, the extreme temperatures – which plunged as low as -25 degrees in Escanaba – have taken their toll on the city’s budget.

“Between the cost of freeze ups and the let-run water we’re at about $200,000 (in costs),” said O’Toole.

Let-run orders were issued to residents across the city whose water lines were in danger of freezing. Those residents were directed to let a thin stream of water run at all times to prevent the freezes, but because residents were only charged for average water usage the city was left footing the bill.

All let-run orders in Escanaba were lifted Wednesday when the city determined that the risk of re-freezes had diminished. Residents were asked to turn off any water that was let run to prevent freezes and advised that any adjustments being made to their water bills will cease at the end of the current billing cycle.

In addition to the cost of water, the city was left with the cost of sending out crews to thaw frozen lines and to repair broken water mains. Even though temperatures have risen, water mains are still at risk. Two mains broke as recently as Saturday.

“We’re continuing to incur costs related to the water line freeze ups,” said O’Toole.

The city also has two two-man crews patching potholes in the city daily to keep up with the damages caused by weakened pavement and heaving ground. Residents who have potholes on their streets are encouraged to contact the Escanaba Public Works Department at 786-1842 to make sure potholes are on the list of areas that need to be addressed by the crews.

Escanaba isn’t the only city dealing with the aftermath of a harsh winter. Gladstone – where locations on the bluff received 111.6 inches of snow according to the National Weather Service’s Marquette office – is also addressing the problems caused by the winter.

“I think we’re getting to the end of the waterline freeze ups but we have just begun on the roads,” said Gladstone City Manager Darla Falcon.

While city crews are actively out filling potholes, Falcon believes that the city may need to repair whole sections of road next fall to fix the damage from the frigid winter months.

“We’re out filling potholes now and some sections of the road are still heaving from the frost,” said Falcon.

Now that the snow that crews worked so hard to remove this winter has finally melted away, both cities have teamed up with with the Elks, the American Legion, and the Veterans Council of Delta County to host an appreciation party for the road crews that worked to clear the streets. The party will take place at the Escanaba Elks Lodge Saturday at 8 p.m., and the public is welcome to attend.

“That’s just so we can recognize the work crews that were out in that misery so that the rest of us could at least come to work,” said O’Toole.

Unfortunately, winter might not be over yet according to the weather forecast.

“There might be a wintry mix on Thursday and Friday,” admitted Jim Salzwedel, hydrometeorological technician at the National Weather Service’s Marquette office.

High temperatures are expected to remain in the 40s throughout the week, but overnight lows hovering around freezing could turn a low pressure system from the southwest into rain and snow Thursday night into Friday.

“It’ll be a low pressure that’ll pretty much track over somewhere between Minneapolis (Min.) and La Crosse (Wis.) and head north east over northern Lake Michigan,” said Salzwedel.

While the general direction of the low pressure system is known, slight variations in the path of the low pressure system could change the form of precipitation.

“It’s just the form of it right now,” said Salzwedel, explaining that it was difficult to predict exactly whether the precipitation would be snow or rain, “but (Escanaba) would be more likely to get more of a wintery mix.”