With 500 miles of roads to cover, clearing snow outside city limits is a challenge. The Public Works crews who are responsible for plowing within Ottumwa city limits have enough manpower to work in two 12-hour shifts, however, employees of the Secondary Road Department, who are responsible for any roads outside the city, do not. That makes for long days for employees, but when a snow storm hits, everyone is out working to keep the roads passable.
There are no lights along the county roads, which makes plowing overnight dangerous. Wind and snow drifts are also problematic along the flat roads out north.
"Even though we have no roads that are closed, as the wind has an adverse effect on it, we keep that in mind, so when we complete a route out north, we just go right back to the beginning and start again on it," said Jerry Parker of the Wapello County Board of Supervisors.
Parker said crews were out Wednesday as early as possible, so despite the challenges, all the hard surface roads were cleared by early afternoon and there was at least one pass on each gravel road by the end of the day.
Despite the harsh winter, Parker said there are no budget concerns for Secondary Roads. A new shed is capable of housing 600 tons of salt, twice the amount the department used to hold, so the county is equipped for even the harshest of winters.