Why can’t we use ice plows on the roads?

Towards the end of the Christmas/New Year’s 2008-09 snow event that paralyzed Whatcom County, Sudden Valley’s General Manager hired a road grader to remove the heavy ice layer covering all of the roads. As the road grader proceeded down the first road using a blade meant to remove ice from the road surface, loud “bangs” could be heard. It was a couple of hours later that reports began coming in of missing sewer covers on the roads that had been graded.

Closer examination showed that the grader’s blade needed so much force to break the ice from the road surface, it broke the road sewer cover rings and popped the sewer cover up and away from its location. Several attempts were made trying various down pressures to see if the ice could be scraped off, but without success. In the end, use of the road grader was deemed not feasible and created dangerous road conditions for vehicles.

In 2009 Sudden Valley purchased a large truck for snow response. The truck was outfitted with a sander, de-ice/anti-ice spreader and a special type of snow plow that could apply down pressure on the road to “scrape” snow down to the road surface, yet ride over uneven surfaces such as a speed bump.

The first test of the down-pressure snow plow using its steel blade resulted in popping off sewer covers. The next test involved using a special acrylic blade attachment, with the same results. After discussions with snow plow manufacturers, a special rubber blade attachment was tried. This allowed the full use of the snow plow’s down pressure, yet the rubber was pliable enough to bend over the sewer covers. This solution prevented damage to the roads, but did not allow for full ice removal.

Although the rubber wears down and needs to be adjusted and replaced, the removal of snow is much more effective now than it was during the winter of 2008-2009. With the implementation of anti-icing solution and use of down-pressure plows, snow removal has improved.