Plowing Naturally

It snowed, again. Again! That’s so rare for Whidbey, but maybe this is part of that “New Normal” that’s been forecast. This week it snowed, again. Fortunately, we don’t get the loads of snow like those that hit the mountains, but if a half an inch of ice hides under a half an inch of snow or slush fenders can still be bent. An inch on one part of the island may not mean much, but the same storm may drop four inches in some microclimate. Then the plows, mechanical and otherwise, are appreciated. 

Islanders frequently moan about the lack of plowing. That’s one consequence of a place that is largely a rural community, fewer funds but lots of roads make it more difficult to serve everyone at once. But, the County will get to the more public roads. They have a plan. 

The County’s “Maintenance & Operations” page lists which roads are likely to be plowed. There even are maps. 

Island County > Public Works > Roads > Maintenance & Operations > Snow and Ice Control

Map 1 – Oak Harbor Road District

Map 2 – Coupeville Road District

Map 3 – Bayview Road District

They also list which roads which may not be plowed. Don’t be surprised if it is a longer list. The smaller roads are harder to keep track of. Fortunately, there’s an interim solution, sanding. If you notice a lot of gravel, sand, and generally messy conditions in the Spring on intersections and steep hills, it’s probably because other workers had been there in nasty conditions doing what can be done.

Thanks to everyone who is doing that work. 

But islanders also know that we have another ally. Sunshine happens. Have fun with the metaphor because, after the storm comes the sunshine. As the Sun gets to shine on the pavement, snow and ice can melt – as long as the Sun gets enough time to work and the air temperature doesn’t get in the way. A day or two, or definitely eventually, the asphalt is clean and dry; maybe with some sand leftover.

But islanders also know that sunshine can only work where the sunshine can hit the road. Clear and dry patches can lead to abrupt transitions to packed snow and ice in the shade. Ah, but there’s a solution to that, too.

Welcome the rain. It is harder to find people cheering the rain and the gloomy clouds that accompany it, but rain reaches everywhere. It may not be as scenic, but cooks know that one way to thaw something quickly is to run water over it. It doesn’t even have to be hot water, just not frozen. Rain showers can reach more of the island than any machinery. Rain reaches places that aren’t paved, or plowed, or even on a map. 

The caution in all of these cases, however, is to remember that, if the road is wet enough and the temperature cold enough, ice can form, particularly overnight. Black ice is a frequent caution, and something to watch for as people post road condition reports on social media. 

It is still Winter. Snow can happen. Spring is close. The birds and buds seem to think so. Until then, be careful out there, and thank everyone and everything that strives to make our roads safer.

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