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Weather forecast: the cold, hard facts

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GREENFIELD — Here we go again.

Hancock County was bracing for another round of snowfall and plunging temperatures as the latest winter storm headed this way. The storm, which was forecast to bring 2 to 3 inches of snow, was expected to push the state into the top 10 snowiest winters on record, according to the National Weather Service.

It’s also pushing road crews to dip even deeper into their overtime budgets.

Just three weeks into 2014, street commissioner Jim Hahn is already halfway through his overtime funding for the entire year, he said Monday.

Hahn did not have an exact dollar figure that had been spent as of Monday afternoon but said he is planning to go before the Greenfield City Council at the council’s regular meeting Wednesday with more details.

“It’s just one of those things where we’re spending a lot of money on removing snow,” Hahn said. “I’m watching these numbers constantly.”

Hancock County Highway engineer Gary Pool said his department is in the same boat. While road crews work the majority of overtime in the winter, there is also the need for overtime to finish projects come summertime.

Paving projects that affect traffic flow often require overtime hours because they need to be finished quickly, not in small chunks that will inconvenience motorists for an extended time period, Pool said.

Pool pointed out that pothole repair will be more extensive this spring because the county experienced flooding followed by a deep freeze, which will have serious effects on the condition of the roads as weather warms and pavement cracks.

“Right now, I’m projecting 20 percent over on labor for the year,” said Pool, who was planning to have plows on the roads for 16 hours straight today. “That’s because everything I’ve worked in this first month has been crazy.”

The area has received about 32.2 inches of snow so far this season, 19 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service.

The snowiest winter on record was in 1981 and 1982, with a total of 51 inches.

Street crews are also quickly using up their salt supplies.

Hahn said he has already instructed his crews to lay down less material than usual, focusing first on intersections, then laying down salt intermittently along less-traveled streets.

If motorists have noticed snowy patches, it could be because of drifting but also because that area was purposely left untreated to conserve material, Hahn said.

Luckily for the budget, this week’s storm is not expected to bring a significant amount of snow, Hahn added.

The drop in temperature is the real danger, meteorologist Joe Skowronek said.

Temperatures plunged below zero in North Dakota and northern Minnesota on Monday morning. The cold front was expected to sweep south into Iowa and as far east as Maine by tonight and remain entrenched through Thursday.

Today’s high is expected to reach about 14 degrees.

Temperatures will drop Wednesday and Thursday night, hovering near zero, Skowronek said.

With wind chill, the temperature will feel like 15 below zero in the coming days.

It will be reminiscent of the polar vortex that shut down the county two weeks ago, though not quite as bad, Skowronek said.

“That’s cold enough to cause problems but not the extreme cold we had a few weeks ago,” he said. “Still something we need to prepare for.”


The Associated press contributed to this story.

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