GREENFIELD — With no major warm-up yet in sight, Greenfield street employees are facing another complication of one of the worst winters on record: behemoth snow mounds that block the views of motorists.
Facing some piles that are almost as tall as the abominable snowman himself, street commissioner Jim Hahn says his crews are trying to shrink the mounds and clear the curbs as much as possible.
“It seems like most of the calls that are coming in now are snow plow issues because we are just out of capacity,” Hahn said. “We are at the 5- to 6-foot level of snow that our snow plows won’t push it up any higher.”
Typically, weather patterns allow snow piles to melt before another big storm hits, Hahn explained. Not so this year, with accumulating snowfall becoming a regular nuisance and bitterly cold temperatures lingering daily.
The most obvious trouble spots are at downtown alleys and parking lots; neighborhood cul-de-sacs; and any big-box store whose private contractors push the snow from their large parking lots to the road. But Hahn acknowledges that he doesn’t know every giant in town: He is relying on calls from the public to point out the most dangerous spots.
“I don’t know where they’re all at, and when you do come upon them, you’re like, ‘Wow.’”
The last couple of weeks, Hahn has been sending out crews at 5 a.m. to cut down on snow mounds. The wee hours of the morning, Hahn said, allow for as little disruption to traffic and parked cars as possible.
Tracy Neal, owner of 4 Sharp Corners in downtown Greenfield, was grateful the department recently removed the 8-foot piles from the three parking spots in front of his store. One of Neal’s customers called city hall to complain, Neal said, and he was glad to have the unwelcome giants taken away.
“They actually did a better job this year with as much snow as they’ve done in the past,” he said. “It’s always been awful downtown.”
Rob Young of National Road Insurance downtown has some empathy for city crews.
“I don’t know what they can do; they plow the snow, it goes up on the sidewalk,” Young said. “I have a snow blower for the office, and we have to get out there once they plow and dig a path for (customers), but who’s going to dig a path on the street corners? … Downtown business owners just have to work with the city and be patient, because it’s a problem with no easy solution to it.”
The city’s traffic safety officer is concerned the monstrous mounds could mean fender benders or worse. Greenfield Police Maj. Derek Towle has been talking with Hahn, pinpointing the highest mounds at the most congested intersections.
“Most of the time a week or a week and a half later, it’ll melt and it’s gone,” Towle said. “This year, it’s been cold for so long, they’ll pile up the snow, and pile up the snow and it’s not going away.”
The National Weather Service predicts temperatures to hover around freezing the next few days, with a chance of snow flurries Friday and Saturday.
Towle says a city ordinance doesn’t allow snow to be more than 3 feet high at intersections or driveways because it blocks the view of motorists. While police haven’t been writing citations, Towle said business owners have been consulted about making sure their snow mounds aren’t too out of hand.
“If somebody gets involved in a crash because they can’t see because of something like (snow), they can file suit against the landowner for placing the object in the right of way and causing a view obstruction,” he added.
Motorists need to be cautious every time they approach an intersection with a giant snow pile, Towle said.
“It should go both directions: Drivers should be aware there are snow piles there, and there could be cars appearing from blind spots.”
Hahn said snow mounds are being transported to vacant lots throughout the city or an open field by Park Cemetery. He asks local residents to use caution and contact the street department at (317) 477-4380 if they have concerns.
“You know what? Everyone has been pretty understanding,” he added. “Really, the first words that come out of their mouth is, ‘You guys have done a great job, but….’ It’s always the ‘buts’ that you have to go out and fix.”