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Ice comes hard, but no major problems

February 27, 2008
The freezing rain started coming down about mid-morning Thursday. Crawford County schools let out at 10 a.m. and the Crawford County Judicial Complex closed at 11. But by then, many roads were already becoming hazardous.

The forecast called for about one-quarter inch of the icy slush, and by evening the area was covered by at least that much. And it just kept coming.

By Friday morning, most area schools, and even some businesses, were closed for the day. State roads were in fair condition by then due to a large turnout of highway department crews, snowplows and the brine that state workers were able to spray on the road surfaces early. And main county roads were in decent shape on Friday. However, many backroads had to wait their turn.

"We knew it was coming," said Lee Holzbog, superintendent of the Crawford County Highway Department. "And we knew we'd be here for the long haul. So, we sent some of our crew home on Thursday to get some rest and brought them back in at midnight.

"As long as it was still coming down, there's only so much we could do," he said. "If we put down chips early, we'll just have to come through later when we're plowing the ice and scrape the chips into the ditch. It costs us about $4,000 each time we put them down, so we have to watch what we're doing."

Salt has become so expensive that the county can no longer afford to buy it. The only product the county can afford is rock chips, but chips can only be used after the snow or ice has accumulated.

"The state uses a lot of brine, which is nothing more than salt water," Holzbog said. "But we're not equipped for that. We just do the best we can with what we have."

Crawford County has only six trucks to put on the roads, and some are equipped with snowplows.

"But we can't use the trucks to spread chips and scrape," Holzbog added. "We have to keep a load on the trucks when we're scraping, just for traction. So, we can't do both at one time. We have 1,075 miles of roads here in the county, so, needless to say, we get real busy."

By Friday morning, the weather improved considerably and the highway department was able to make more gains. But the slush that came down on Thursday froze overnight, creating even more work for the highway crews.

"We had to scrape some roads twice," Holzbog said. "We'd go through and take it down a layer, then go back and hit it again. That takes a lot of time."

But the hard work and long hours didn't go unnoticed by those who notice such things.

"The county highway department has done an excellent job," Mike Key, director of transportation for the Crawford County schools, said. "Two weeks ago, when we had all that bad weather, they did a great job. And this time was no different. In the last 14 years, this was the best job I've seen. We had absolutely no problems on Thursday.

"That morning, we weren't sure what was going to happen. I talked to my brother, who was headed west toward Boonville, and he told me everything looked good west of here," Key said. "About 10 minutes later, he called back and told me it had turned bad — really bad. And it was headed our way.

"I talked to (Crawford County Community School Corp. Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge), and he made the call to send the kids home. You never know for sure, but this time, we called it right. We released them at 10, and all the kids were out of the schools by 10:30. Everybody made it home safe."

"We've already run over the budget on our money for snow removal," Holzbog said. "I hope we don't get any more of this stuff."

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