Snoqualmie learns from ‘Snowmageddon’, improves communication

The city Parks and Public Works department is working to better communicate private roads and alleys

Only a week after recovering from February’s “Snowmageddon,” the city of Snoqualmie began prepping for even more snowfall earlier this week, this time with better experience and communication improvements.

The early February snowstorms marked some of the worst conditions in Snoqualmie within the past decade. Parks and public works crews worked around the clock to prepare for and deal with dozens of inches falling within just a few days.

“I’ve been here since March of 2009 and this is by far the worst I’ve seen here,” said Dan Marcinko director of parks and public works. “It’s challenging to be accurate in our predictions when the weatherman isn’t positive, but I think the guys reacted very well.”

Mayor Matt Larson declared a state of emergency which allowed parks and public works to expedite the contracting process and hire on help. In total, the city hired six local contractors to clear out the heavy snow before the city-owned plows could move through. Marcinko said city workers did a “fantastic” job, working 12-hour shifts to clear the streets, communicating with the public and working to maintain emergency services 24/7.

“It was a great team effort with our public, through social media, calling us, email and text messaging,” Marcinko said. “They really worked well with us, they communicated to us some of the problem areas… I think it was a really good team effort in all aspects.”

The crews’ highest priority was clearing state Route 202 through downtown Snoqualmie and one lane of Snoqualmie Parkway between SR 202 and Interstate 90, according to a city press release. Once the major roads were clear, crews shifted to a long week of digging out arterial and side streets packed with snow while keeping the main streets open.

Six plows and 12 other pieces of heavy equipment, including front loaders, back hoes, dump trucks, and other city and contractor vehicles were clearing city streets.

Marcinko added that one of the focuses was clearing public sidewalks to give residents an opportunity to walk around and avoid any cabin fever from being stuck inside for too long.

The large scale snow removal operation finally concluded on Feb. 17 and Marcinko praised the work crews, communications team, city council and the general public for working together through the storm and being patient.

“This storm was a perfect example of how important emergency preparation is for residents and businesses,” said Joan Pliego, the city public information officer. “Store shelves were cleared out, cars were buried in snow, and the only way to get emergency assistance was by snow plows and public safety vehicles. There are other catastrophes that may come our way, such as flooding and earthquakes. Now — not tomorrow — is the time to prepare.”

While the city did well in preparing and subsequently working through the massive snowstorms, Marcinko mentioned there is room for improvement, namely communication with privately owned roads and alleyways. Some homeowners were unaware of the private streets and alley, so Marcinko said the city plans to label the street signs with a “Pvt.” to mark them as private.

“Our main concentration is the traveling public out in the public right of way,” Marcinko said. “We cannot cross public tax dollars with private property, which is unfortunate.”

During the worst of the storm, the city did make a one-time exception to clear alleyways and allow waste management to clear out waste. Marcinko is currently researching who owns what private plats and plans to establish better communication on what the city can plow and what areas must be privately cleared.

“Our main priority is the public right of way itself, the roads for emergency, police and fire vehicles so they can access the homes,” Marcinko said. “So that’s why we ask our homeowners to work with us and shovel their own section of the alleyway. But normally that’s not an issue, this just happened to be a rare occurrence.”

Despite that one area of weakness, Marcinko praised the city’s communications team and the public’s patience as the city did the best it could as quickly as it could.

Snoqualmie was set to potentially see more snowfall this week as of the Record’s Monday deadline, but city workers were ready for the worst of it.

“We learn from everything we do,” Marcinko said. “It literally was a team effort with everybody involved, as corny as that sounds. Everybody helped, from the public all the way to the council level. Communication with the public will be improved in the future and we appreciated the public’s patience as we worked through such a severe storm.”

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