DOT: Secondary roads should be clear today

Published 2:13 pm Friday, January 14, 2011

Accumulation of snow on Monday, Jan. 10 wasnt the worst the area has ever seen, but temperatures that have stayed below freezing and kept ice on the roads have trapped many residents in their homes.

Polk County schools have been closed all week and were likely not going to be open again today, making it probably the longest school closing causing by weather since the blizzard of 1993.

The N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) has been working 24 hour shifts all week and were hopeful that all secondary roads would be clear by today, possibly by Thursday afternoon, Jan. 13. Main roads and interstates were cleared early in the week.

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The Polk County DOT has been working its 11 trucks and one grader 24 hours a day, with 15 employees (12 working the roads) during the day and eight employees working nights, according to Polk County DOT supervisor Thomas Hall.

We used 600 tons of salt when it started Monday morning, Hall said.

Hall said getting all the roads clear has been difficult this week mainly because of the sleet and freezing rain that came on top of the snow Monday afternoon as well as temperatures that remained below freezing. He said if it werent for the ice, all the roads would have been cleared much earlier.

Polk County Schools Supt. Bill Miller was doubtful Thursday that school would be open Friday, Jan. 14. He said this weeks snow couldnt have come at a worse time, with exams and state testing having been scheduled this week.

Its just a real problem out there with these kinds of temperatures, said Miller. One of the things that people may not understand is how many turn-arounds in driveways our buses have to make.

Polk County Schools has 34 buses, with approximately 1,000 of its 2,600 total students riding.

Another thing Ive got to think about is putting high school kids out there driving, Miller said.

Miller says the schools could go on a delay, but if school begins at 10 a.m., that means buses are on the roads at 8 a.m.

Although the main roads are clear, many areas, especially in Green Creek, Tryon and Saluda, were still not safe to drive as of yesterday. Temperatures were forecast to drop to the low to mid teens last night.

Before the storm hit, school was scheduled to be closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Tuesday and Wednesday were required remediation and retesting days following exams.

Miller says Polk students will likely have to attend on Monday, Jan. 17 and will take exams and testing Tuesday through Friday of next week. The school will have to be closed the following Monday for retesting, and remediation or teachers reviewing tests will be done next Saturday, Miller said.

It just came at the worst possible week it could have come for us, Miller said. I know parents are frustrated, but were just caught between a rock and a hard place.

Miller says he hates to have school Monday, but its not fair to high school students to be out of school all week then start testing on Tuesday. Monday will be a day of review for the high school to ensure the students are ready to begin exams Tuesday.

Miller says two of the make-up days for this week can be taken care of next week, then another in February and another in March. That will leave just two days left for snow and if those are taken later this winter, the school year will have to be extended, Miller said.

Tryon recorded five inches of snow Monday, Jan. 10, with other areas seeing slightly more. Little of it had melted&bsp; as of yesterday. Temperatures were forecast to drop to the low to mid teens last night.

The snow and cold temperatures have kept area emergency response and road crews busy all week.

Tryon street crews traveled 312 miles scraping and sanding this week, with two trucks and nine tons of sand. The town also used two backhoes to clean parking spaces on Main and Pacolet Streets downtown, according to Tryon officials. The Tryon Police Department answered nine calls for service and the towns dispatch ran a 24-hour shift Monday instead of 12 hours.

The Tryon Fire Department&bsp; spent four hours last Friday, Jan. 7, and eight hours Sunday, Jan. 9 prepping for the snow, including fueling trucks and preparing chains. Monday the fire department delivered medications to a resident at the top of Hogback Mountain Road and did road checks and assisted the Tryon Police Department with stranded motorists.

Tryon Fire Chief Joey Davis said overall this event was not terrible in terms of emergencies because the storm came during the night hours and people stayed off the roads during the storm.

The Polk County Sheriffs Office has answered several calls for help involving stranded residents. Officers have delivered firewood, fuel, kerosene and heaters to residents who couldnt get out.

The Columbus public works department had almost finished scraping town-owned roads yesterday afternoon. Columbus has a pickup truck with a plow and another truck with a sander. The crews have been working overtime this week and used approximately five tons of sand.

Polk County offices were closed Monday but reopened Tuesday, Jan. 11 thanks to the countys purchase last summer of a Ford F250 maintenance truck. Using the truck, the county was able to clear parking lots in order to open offices.