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Snowplows work around the clock to clear roads

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Snow-covered roads turned into patches of ice and hard-packed snow the day after the blizzard, and plow truck drivers will need at least another day to lay down salt and go over streets again to get all of them cleared.

Snowplow drivers across the county started getting to neighborhood streets Wednesday night and Thursday morning, after clearing seven to 11 inches of snow from main roads across Johnson County.

But their first run often left the roads with a coating of packed-down snow, bringing complaints from motorists and residents about roads in their neighborhoods, including concerns about black ice on Interstate 65.

Johnson County, Greenwood and Franklin snowplows cleared neighborhood streets all of Thursday, and county and city officials expect to spend more time clearing the subdivisions today. Snowplows on I-65 caused traffic to slow down and back up Thursday as they tried to clear snow from the highway, according to state police.

Franklin Street Commissioner Ron Collins said clearing the streets was difficult because the snow got packed down from vehicles driving on it and froze to the road. Franklin doesn’t have the equipment needed to remove the packed snow and motorists most likely will have to drive on it for the next few days until city plows can get it all cleared, he said.

“There are parts that have 4 or 5 inches of hard, packed snow on it. That’s going to be a condition that exists for three or four days,” Collins said.

Franklin snowplow drivers tried to clear at least one lane on all neighborhood streets before going back and clearing the entire street. In Greenwood, plow drivers worked to clear an entire neighborhood before moving on to the next. This meant some neighborhoods did not get plowed at all until late in the day.

During the storm, snowplow drivers worked to keep main roads clear for emergency vehicles and were not able to move on to side streets and subdivisions until the main roads were finished. The delay allowed snow to get packed down, county highway director Luke Mastin said.

But the county was able to get the packed-down snow off the roads by using salt to melt the ice. The county should be finished clearing all the roads today, Mastin said.

The county has had 15 plow trucks running 24 hours since Wednesday morning and has hired a private plowing company to help clear subdivision streets in White River Township, he said.

“There’s a lot of snow to remove and a lot of streets to hit. We’ll stay on a 24-hour schedule until it’s all clear,” Mastin said.

Greenwood had 17 trucks plowing neighborhood streets Thursday, and Mayor Mark Myers said the city hoped to be finished clearing the subdivisions by the end of the day.

The city got complaints from residents who wanted to know why their neighborhood streets were not clear or who were upset that snowplows had pushed snow into their driveways, Myers said.

Phyllis Gray, who lives in a Greenwood subdivision, said she called the mayor’s office to complain after a snowplow pushed a four-foot-high pile of snow into her driveway. The 67-year-old had paid a company to clear her driveway Wednesday so she could go to doctor appointments and the pharmacy, and she said she couldn’t afford to have the company come out again.

“The driveway was opened, and the street department has sealed it off,” Gray said. “I cannot get out.”

Myers said city plows pushing snow into residents’ driveways was unavoidable and expected.

Plow drivers try to change the angle of their blades when driveways are far apart so snow goes into the grass instead of driveways, but when houses are close together, the drivers can’t do that, he said.

“When dealing with this much snow, there’s not really much we can do,” Myers said.

Mastin said the county also got complaints Thursday morning from residents who wanted their streets to be cleared. He said the county hasn’t had a storm this size in years and the amount of snow that fell was unusual.

City and county officials expect another inch of snow by Saturday and say there is a possibility of snow next week.

Myers said Greenwood has ordered 600 tons of salt to prepare for more snow and to make up for the salt used so far.

Franklin and the county have hired a company to haul snow out of downtown Franklin parking lots. Then the city won’t have to pile more snow on top of the snow piles already there, Collins said.

Mastin said, “It’s difficult to move that much snow and keep the roads clear. We’re doing the best we can.”

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