The recent winter storm was probably the most severe since the famous 1993 blizzard. It pounded the plateau with a combination of freezing rain, ice and snow. This heavy snow and ice accumulated on trees and power lines.
Our electric crews faced a losing battle for a long period of time. They would put one line back up only to have another go down to a falling limb, tree or even in some cases snapped power poles.
There were complaints about roads not being plowed in a timely manner. This unique storm made plowing difficult. Hundreds of trees, including laurel and rhododendrons, had fallen onto the roads. Unless it was a huge tree our workers plowed everything to one side, trees, limbs and the heavy snow/ice mixture. The critical goal was to open roadways open to emergency and service vehicles as soon as possible. Time was critical. To aggravate the situation several of our snow plows broke during the event. Workers would then have to return to the town yard where time consuming repairs were made. In addition, several town vehicles suffered damage such as broken windshields, side mirrors and antennas.
Under normal conditions the town first plows the primary town roads, then secondary areas and finally private roads. This schedule became problematic especially on narrow town neighborhood and private roads were rhododendrons were bent over every few feet.
This winter storm put DOT resources under tremendous stress also. Their first response was to open the primary highways like US 64. Secondary roads like Cobb, Bowery, and Big Bear Pen are plowed by the state after the primary highways are done.
The town will assist the state in plowing secondary roads and private roads after all town roads have been open. But with limited resources, a major event like the one we had makes this a challenging effort.
To determine whether a home is on a private, state or town road, go to the Town of Highlands website. On the home page click on the GIS button, then Town/State RoadS Map (or click HERE). The private roads are in green, the town roads in black and state roads are in blue.
Some folks have asked why we didn’t create a debris site at the Recreation Department and bring in a tub grinder to chip up all the fallen debris. A site was setup for the last hurricane event. That costly decision is initialed after the governor has declared an emergency disaster. The state and county departments of emergency management setup and operate these sites. This storm did not meet the criteria.
Town crews are still working to clear town road right-of-ways of fallen limbs and tree debris. It will take several more weeks to complete the process. Cleanup is a massive task for our small road department.
The town routinely trims rhododendrons and low hanging tree branches on our town right-of-ways. Our electric crews trim trees near power lines. Winter events like this one is the reason for keeping vegetation on roadways trimmed.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor