This Winter Hasn’t Been A Comfortable Breeze Throughout Montana
It’s wild how some many other parts of the country are experiencing a harsher winter than us here in Montana, or at least southwest Montana. I’m from the Northeast (Connecticut) and my parents have been telling me (and showing me with pictures) that the winter of 2010-2011 has brought with it the most snow in memory. Someone over here was also just telling me that other parts of Montana, mainly northeast Montana, are not only experiencing unbelievable amounts of snow, but brutal temperatures and wind as well. I guess I’ve been pretty content in our southwest bubble.
No doubt about it. It’s a blundery winter out there. Some places have it worse than others. Perhaps no place has it tougher in northeast Montana than in Valley County where residents have seen an estimated 80 or more inches so far this winter.
“We have probably the worst winter we’ve had in the last 30 years,” Valley County Commissioner Dave Pippin said from Glasgow. The record for snowfall was shattered, he said, and all other existing records were broken. There have been 27 places where roads were almost without passage.
Because there is so much snow, crews are running out of places to push it, which means public safety has come into play. “We have declared a declaration of disaster,” Pippin said, whose county expects to receive some help from the state to remove snow.
For now, the county is working to stay out of the red in its budget. “We’re really tight on budget here,” he said. “Fuel consumption is $30,000 a month. Overtime is definitely a budget buster.”
Road administer Rick Seiler said it’s been a daunting task with snow removal, 60-degree below wind chill and 2,000 miles of road to take care of. His crew of 13 have been running 10 plows every day and working 10-plus hours a day four days a week while being on call the rest of the time.
“The problem we’re having is lots of wind,” he said, acknowledging at times clearing roads for emergencies has been in vain when the snow blows back onto the roads.
Valley County doesn’t have a specific snow plow budget; rather it has a parts budget to replace broken down equipment. “We’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a tough winter,” he added. “There are lots of problems, and it’s tough on equipment.”
Commissioner Pippin said the county is fortunate for the population it has, the ranchers who help, a public that understands its limitations. “We appreciate that, but we’re out there every day to make sure they have some accessibility,” he said, adding, “You find ways to make it work.”
And in Roosevelt County, the situation is similar. “We can’t keep them (roads) open because of the wind,” Commissioner Gary Macdonald said. “We’re really struggling too as I’m sure every county is.”
Roosevelt County is to a point now where many roads will not stay open because the county lacks the means to do it. The commissioners say this winter is “at least five times worse than last year’s.”
The county faces equipment failure as extreme temperatures take their toll. “We’re getting into a severe situation wit