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Crews battle cold, icy streets

Fargo maintenance crews are working around the clock to make ice-coated streets safer, but removing ice from every residential road is nearly impossible because of single-digit temperatures.

Fargo maintenance crews are working around the clock to make ice-coated streets safer, but removing ice from every residential road is nearly impossible because of single-digit temperatures.

Main thoroughfares in Fargo are in good condition and the city will continue to spread a mix of sand and salt to provide more traction on streets until at least Saturday, said Public Works Supervisor Duane Fowler.

Ten sanding trucks spread mix on Fargo streets Monday. Despite the 24-hour presence of sanding trucks and snowplows on city streets, City Administrator Pat Zavoral isn't worried about the extra road maintenance costs.

"If we weren't OK, we'd still spend the money," to remove snow and ice, City Administrator Pat Zavoral said Monday.

Fargo will focus on ice removal by Thursday or later, when temperatures are expected to reach the mid-20s, Fowler said.


The National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D., forecasts highs of 22 on Friday and 26 on Saturday in Fargo-Moorhead.

Temperatures ranged from 0 to 13 below Monday and haven't been above 15 degrees since Nov. 30, according to the weather service.

"People are concerned that we're not using enough salt," on city streets, Fowler said. "A lot of it doesn't work that well when it's this cold."

Other areas across the region are facing their own ice dilemmas.

Richland County, N.D., used more salt and sand mix in a recent four-day span than it typically does in one year, said County Engineer Tim Schulte.

About 1,200 tons of mix were spread on 525 miles of county roads, including 275 miles of gravel streets that typically are prone to heavy freezing, Schulte said.

Nearly an inch of ice coats almost every county road, Schulte said.

He even thought about asking a local man who operates a Zamboni to give county roads a refinish - as a joke, of course.


"I'm sure the public is getting frustrated, judging by the calls I've been getting," he said.

Although its road maintenance budget is rapidly deteriorating, Richland County will continue to spread mix on busy streets, curves and intersections, Schulte said.

The county received a shipment of mix Friday and two more are expected later this week.

"If we spend a lot of money in the winter, it takes away from road maintenance in the summer," he said.

Schulte has received several phone calls from residents complaining about county roads. But even if the county had a larger budget, spreading mix to dissolve ice from every road would take a lot of salt.

Schulte estimated Richland County roads average about 330,000 pounds of ice per mile. With high temperatures hovering near 15 degrees, it would take 1 pound of salt to melt 6.3 pounds of ice - or about 26.2 tons of salt to cover one mile, Schulte said.

Moorhead spreads 100 tons of mix per day on its streets to combat thick ice, said Operations Manager Chad Martin. The city cleared ice from heavily used roads and hopes to tackle side streets when Mother Nature cooperates.

"It's just hateful," Martin said of the ice. "It's so cold, (the mix) sort of rests on top of the ice. We'll have some dandy hockey rinks later."


Ice has caused persistent problems in West Fargo. The city chopped ice from 13th Avenue and other busy streets with a machine typically used to blade gravel roads, but nuisance snowfalls have hampered maintenance on side streets, said Public Works Director Barry Hanson.

West Fargo doesn't have an ice and snow removal budget. Those tasks are tied into workers' salaries, Hanson said.

Cass County eclipsed its budget for sand and salt mix after covering its entire roadway system in the past week, County Engineer Rich Sieg said.

The county typically spreads mix on busy roads only, he said.

"We have a priority system set up. But in this case, we did sand and salt our entire blacktop system," Sieg said. "So that did take a significant chunk of our inventory."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Joe Whetham at (701) 241-5557

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