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Winter weather taking a toll on road crews

Road crews in Ogle County have had their hands full trying to keep roads passable. Photo by Chris Johnson
Road crews in Ogle County have had their hands full trying to keep roads passable. Photo by Chris Johnson

Winter is officially half over, but for snow plow drivers there has been no end in sight.

At the Ogle County Highway Department, which maintains 270 miles of county roads, the employees have only had one day off since Dec. 8.

"Our guys have been out daily dealing with the snow and ice," said Ogle County Engineer Curtis Cook.

"While we may not be getting much snow with each storm, the wind has been blowing and drifting. Our guys have been doing a fantastic job in these conditions."

This constant winter weather has led to a higher demand for salt and chips to help keep area roads clear.

The roads in Ogle County are either maintained by the county, the townships, the state, or individual municipalities.

Townships in Ogle County maintain 918 miles of roads.  The Illinois Department of Transportation maintains Ill. 2, 26, 64, 72, 251, I-39, and US52.

Some of the main county roads include German Church Road, River Road, White Pines Road, Lowell Park Road, Baileyville Road, and Mt. Morris Road.

Montague Road is co-maintained between Winnebago, Stephenson, and Ogle Counties.

So far salt supplies have been holding out for the county.

"We are okay with our chip supply but our salt supplier is having a hard time getting all the salt to us," said Cook. "We are expecting a delivery of salt this week from an order placed Dec. 20."

The highway department has salt orders throughout the winter because the salt needs to be stored inside a building.

"We place numerous orders and we have 1,500 tons ordered that have not been delivered," said Cook.

Fortunately for the county, their storage capacity was increased after a winter 2009 shortage.

"The county board allowed us to build a second storage building for salt," said Cook. "Without is we would have been out of salt two weeks ago. Fortunately we have had enough salt so far."

With two ice storms this season, Curtis said another ice storm would drastically impact the remaining salt supplies in the county.

Already some municipalities including Oregon have reduced the amount of salt being spread on their streets.

Oregon street superintendent Michael Bowers informed residents last week that street salting was being limited to intersections, curves, and hills. At that time Oregon had used 75 percent of its salt supply for the winter.

Polo has ordered their 150 tons budgeted and has a 25 ton load that officials expect to have delivered this week.

City Clerk Susie Corbit said last year 165 tons of salt was used.

She said their is no shortage of salt but any extra salt would be at a higher price than the original contract.

In Forreston, Alan Cruthis  the superintendent of public works said their salt supply is doing alright.

“We are doing okay but we have used more than typical,” he said. “We have gone though 100 tons.”

He said the village usually only needs 50 tons of salt at this point in the season.

“It has been quite a winter,” Cruthis said. “It took 8 hours to clear the drifting from the half inch we received Monday.

As of Monday morning Cook said the county has ordered about 60 percent of its annual salt supply.

"Despite it seeming like a lot of snow this season, overall it has been a normal winter," said Cook. "The last two years we were fortunate to not have much snow."

One thing Cook would like to remind motorists is to keep their distance from plows.

He said plows may have been down a road but with high winds, the drifting and blowing snow may cause patches of the road to become snow-covered.

The continuous winter has affected the highway department budget. At the end of the season, Cook said he will reexamine his budget to determine if any scheduled projects would need to be deferred due to winter expenses.

"Right now we are burning $20,000 per week in fuel to keep the roads clear," said Cook. "Those costs add up quick."

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