To plow or not to plow, that is the question on Whidbey

With climatologists predicting plenty of snow in the Northwest this winter, officials at the Island County Public Works Department are cautioning residents to plan ahead for winter road driving.

People who live in unincorporated areas of the county should be aware that it may take awhile for snow plows to clear arterial roads, while some roads may not be plowed at all, according to a press release from public works.

Public works employees have developed a list of roads that may not be plowed or sanded when it snows. The list of roads from the Coupeville road shop are Widarama Beach, Widarama Place, Shangri-La Shores, Dines Point, Lagoon Point, Bush Point, Arbor Drive, Pullman Road, Roberts Bluff Road, Fir Street, Maple Street, Mountain View Road, View Road, High Road and the hill portion of Bercot Road.

The list, however, is not all-inclusive; sanding/plowing may not be performed on other steep plat roads not included on the list, depending on the severity of weather conditions and the availability of plows.

When the weather is bad, steep roads that cannot be safely plowed and sanded will be closed.

“Loaded snow removal trucks may weigh up to 20 tons each and are vulnerable to snow / icy road conditions, especially on grades in excess of 8 percent,” the press release states. “This, coupled with typical conditions in residential communities (such as roadside / driveway parking, sharp curves, proximity of homes to the road and no escape routes / recovery areas for drivers) and winter‚Äôs short period of daylight also limit our operations.”

The Island County Road Division works to clear priority roads first. Snowplow crews give primary attention to clearing school bus and commuter routes, which are generally the principal roadways for both morning and evening travel. Secondary roads will be plowed and sanded as crews are available and after the primary routes are clear.

As a rule, Road Department operations will be limited to the hours of 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, although extreme conditions can warrant a 24-hour response. Weekend and holiday operations will be on an emergency callout basis only.

The Road Division warns Whidbey drivers about the “invisible hazard” of black ice. It can extremely hard to predict when and where black ice will form. Heavy frost on windshields is an indication that a similar frost coating may also exist on roadway surfaces. Motorists should be aware that even sanding has limited benefits on black ice and the sand can quickly be blown off the surface by traffic and/or high winds, the press release states.

Island County Road crews do not and will not plow or sand any private roads, streets, driveway, alley ways or parking lots. The only exceptions to this policy are:

1. Where there is a clear and imminent threat to lives and / or properties as the result of an emergency;

2. Upon request from fire or law enforcement to assist in emergency response to structure fires or medical alerts where access is impeded due to heavy snow; and

3. Where an emergency exists and assistance is warranted and approved by the Board of County Commissioners.


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