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Snow. It's fluffy, picturesque, and seemingly peaceful. However, as we saw over the past couple of weeks, too much snow can create hazardous driving conditions and frustration for residents.

According to the National Weather Service, our area had not experienced this much snow since the winter of 1968-69 - 40 years ago. The consistent snowfall, freezing temperatures, and rain created several challenges for the city's Maintenance Services crews. During this event, the primary service areas city crews responded to were plowing and sanding streets and repairing broken water mains. In this community, there are 175 miles of streets, many of which are steep or narrow. Initially, the city focused on getting the main arterials, including Boones Ferry, State Street and Kruse Way, plowed and passable. Once the main arterials were passable, maintenance crews were able to focus on feeder roads, like Greentree, Boca Raton, and Pilkington. Residential streets, especially on hills, (like mine) were given a low priority.

The continuing combination of dry snow, wet snow, and ice strained city staff and equipment, however, crews stepped up to the challenge by plowing and sanding around the clock. Our four old, inadequate snow plows were not up to the challenge. We did end up contracting for three more plows, but not until they were available at the end of the week. As you observed, we don't use salt because of damage to the environment and the snow removal equipment and vehicles.

In addition to working around the clock for 14 days, maintenance crews spent 456 hours responding to downed trees, plowed approximately 250 to 300 miles of roads, spread 940 tons of sand, responded to and repaired seven water main breaks, and assisted police and fire in getting emergency crews to a call.

The city managed the best it could during this storm, but we could have done better and we will be debriefing regarding the failures during this rare, but important, weather event. One of the areas where we need to do a better job is in communication, we need to identify methods that will inform our residents and provide services in a more efficient manner. Many residents were without services including not only snow removal but electricity, cable service, garbage pick-up, mail and newspapers and I totally understand and share your frustrations as my house, too, suffered from the lack of all of these services. And we, like many of you, did not celebrate Christmas until the following weekend since we couldn't leave our driveway. The city was successful in making service to people in emergency situations a priority. For the rest of us, reliable updates on the garbage, snow removal and service provision would have been welcome. We pledge to correct these deficiencies.

What's next? Now clean-up begins. Maintenance crews have already begun removing the sand off the streets. You can help by moving limbs so that the street sweeper can access the pavement. Crews will also be removing any fallen limbs in the public right-of-way or broken/hanging branches that may be dangerous. Small branches (less than 4 inches in diameter) can be put in residential yard debris containers for removal. Residents can also take additional material to designated drop off sites. For a list of drop-off sites or to report any dangerous branches, please call Maintenance Services at 503-635-0280.

Judie Hammerstad is the mayor of Lake Oswego.

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