Three cheers for city, county and state workers

Saturday’s blizzard conditions in Council Bluffs and southwest Iowa created major problems for those charged with keeping our roadways open to traffic. While there will always be those who disagree, we think city, county and state workers have done an outstanding job of dealing with those conditions.

As has sadly been the case of late, this latest monster of a storm hit on the weekend — meaning those who are working around the clock to clear our city streets, county roads and highways had already completed a full week of work when they were called back to deal with this latest snowfall.

Most of the city’s main thoroughfares had been plowed within 12 hours after the snow subsided. While streets were not clear and dry in many areas, the majority were passable; and crews returned to those streets Sunday afternoon, Sunday night and Monday to further clear them.

When the snowfall total pushes toward the 12-inch mark and that quantity of snow is pushed around by a sustained wind of nearly 30 mph and wind gusts approaching 50 mph — the very conditions these workers had to deal with Saturday night and into Sunday — we think they did an outstanding job.

Schools right to play it safe when it comes to snow days

While we’re on the topic of roads, let’s address school snow days — since the two often go hand in hand. With the seemingly unending winter, and if you are the parent of a school-aged child, it can be easy to let the frustration of the number of snow days being called get to you.

But try to keep in mind the snow day process is not as simple as you might think and just because one person’s neighborhood may have clear roads, doesn’t mean the roads are safe everywhere.

The Council Bluffs School District, for example, takes several factors into consideration, and their decision is first and foremost based on the safety of the students and staff. As it should be.

It is not based on whether or not Omaha Public Schools decide to cancel.

There are times the district will consider whether a late-start would be a possibility, but on days like Monday — when school is released roughly two hours early anyway — those are not always feasible.

School officials keep in touch with the Council Bluffs Public Works Department to evaluate current and immediate future road and sidewalk conditions. A clear street may seem like just that — however, melting snow creating new icy patches on the roads is always a concern for both the city crews and the schools.

Aside from that, they also have to consider rural road conditions in the county for the safety of students who live in places like Crescent and Honey Creek, or who open enroll from other areas.

The district is in contact with Pottawattamie County Emergency Management and the National Weather Service to determine the severity of the incoming weather and the safety of the temperatures. They have to think about the conditions students will be walking to school and to bus stops in and how the elements like wind chill, ice and snow will affect the buses.

An extra day or two in the summer is worth it if it means keeping bus-riding students safe. A few summer days spent in school, after all, is preferable to a few winter days planning a child’s funeral.

Speaking of bus stops, children wait for buses on sidewalks. It is dangerous for them to stand in the street — especially when the curb is buried under snow that pushes a foot into said street. When sidewalks are not cleared, they become more dangerous and prone to accidents — a good reason why there is an ordinance in Council Bluffs to clear your sidewalks within 24 hours of snowfall.

And please, refrain from the “Kids today are soft, so what if they stand in snow?” argument. It’s not productive and it won’t change city code or school district procedures. Just clear your sidewalks and give the kids a safe place to wait for the bus.

If you have a housebound or elderly neighbor, please consider helping them out and clearing their sidewalks and driveways.

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Help out your neighbors — including firefighters

While we are on the subject of clearing things, if you have a fire hydrant on your property, make sure it is cleared off.

With a normal average snowfall of 19 inches, Council Bluffs had received nearly 37 inches of snow this winter – and that was the total before Saturday’s blizzard dropped an additional 8 to 12 inches of new snow on the area.

The higher-than-normal snowfall this year coupled with city efforts to clear snow from the streets has resulted in an additional problem – a problem for residents and fire crews alike. More and more of the city’s fire hydrants are being buried by nature’s snowpack and the snow thrown up onto parking areas where the hydrants are located by passing snowplows.

We would encourage residents to keep a close eye on fire hydrants in their neighborhoods. If you see a hydrant being buried or that has been buried by the snow, take a few minutes to dig it out.

If there is a fire in your neighborhood, the time saved if firefighters don’t have to dig their way to a hydrant to put it in use could be critical. If the hydrant is on property occupied by an older resident, help them — and help protect your property — by keeping the area around the hydrant cleared of snow.

We are all in this wintry fun together. Let’s appreciate the hard work put in by so many to keep our city functioning and our residents — including children — safe. And let’s help each other out.

Most importantly, keep in mind that spring isn’t that far away.

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