Snow graveyards: where does the snow go?
HANCOCK — Welcome to the Keweenaw, where the snow needs to be hauled away to make room for more.
The Hancock Department of Public works has several acres near the Houghton County fairgrounds to dump the excess snow and keep the road clear. It’s a neverending cycle, explained Bill Marlor of the Hancock DPW.
“The banks are pretty high…It’s pretty impressive to look at all that snow,” Marlor said.
Fortunately there is plenty of room left for more at the main site, just one of multiple locations.
“We have plenty of space left this year, we’ve been managing it quite well,” Marlor said. “I don’t think we are a third full yet.”
Typically Hancock moves snow out at night, using the lack of traffic to their advantage.
“We’re moving it every day, good weather or not… all night long,” Marlor said.
During the day, the main focus is sanding the roads and keeping them clear. During large snow events the focus is on keeping the main roads clear not moving snow piles.
“We get calls from people that don’t understand why their snow hasn’t been moved and basically there’s a lot of variables involved,” Marlor said. “When it is snowing continuously we have to clear the streets first before we can haul snow.”
The first priorities are the main roads and truck lines, then residential roads and once those are clear the snow piles are last to be hauled away.
The Houghton County Road Commission has similar priorities, though they typically don’t need to move the snow to another location. Moving snow is an issue for the areas with tightly packed buildings like Calumet, Houghton and Hancock.
With more space, the road commission usually is able to blow the snow back from the road, according to Kevin Harju of the Houghton Road Commission.
However, the weather still impacts what they can do and when.
“We can’t blow snow until we get a day like today,” said Harju. “We kind of count on having a break in the snow before we can do anything with the snow banks.”
When the snow is coming down the main focus is on the roads themselves, not the snow piles.
“Be patient, we’re probably roughly about 50 inches over last year’s snowfall,” said Harju. “Like I said, until we get a break in the weather like now…all of our employees are out on the regular plow run.”
“It’s snow country up here, that’s for sure,” he said.