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story.lead_photo.caption Keith Gardner of Bias Lawn Care clears snow from Bennett Lane near Jefferson City on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

The off-and-on snow, sleet and ice of the past few days in Central Missouri has meant some long days in trucks for local public works crews working to clear roadways.

Cole County Public Works Director Eric Landwehr said shifts vary, but most of the time the county's main crews will start work around 4 a.m. on the day of storm.

"They could go as late sometimes as 6 p.m., and the worst-case scenario would be 8 p.m.," Landwehr said. "The longest we would have would be a 16-hour shift, but we really try to avoid that. We'd rather give them as much of a chance to rest up for the next day as possible."

It's been a grueling few days for Jefferson City's snow crews, too.

"It's wearing on the crews, the equipment and the materials, but we're fighting through it," said Jefferson City Operations Division Director Britt Smith. "Storms like these with off-and-on precipitation make it difficult to plan crew schedules."

Usually on the first day of a storm drivers can go up to 16 hours, Smith said, but they fall back to 12, at the most, when they have to go additional days.

"It's been tough this week because we have breaks come and then it starts up again and we have to be ready for the rush hours," he said. "I wish we had enough people to put on two full shifts, but we don't."

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Smith said several trucks have needed repairs.

"We are blessed to have a great maintenance crew," he added. "They don't get relief, so our handful of mechanics have to keep going, and they've been getting the trucks out so they can be on the streets. On the subdivision streets they use pickups, some of which date back to 2005."

Over the past few days Cole County crews have used 650-700 tons of salt, 200 of which was a half sand/half salt combination, he said.

"The mixture helps with traction when it gets real cold," Landwehr said. "Chemicals used to treat the roads start to lose their effectiveness below 25 degrees. That's been the biggest problem for us in this week's storms is the cold temperatures. Once the snow stops it takes us a couple of hours to get the roads cleaned up; but much of what we've been seeing the past few days is off-and-on precipitation, so you may have it cleared for a while and then you have to go back and hit it again a little later."

Both Jefferson City and Cole County bring in smaller night crews to monitor conditions and make sure the main roads are kept open.

The county will be getting 2,000 tons of salt and 1,500 gallons of calcium chloride to replenish what has been used during recent storms, he said.

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Jefferson City has another 2,000 tons of salt scheduled to come in Thursday, Smith said.

"We started the winter with 3,500 tons, but you're starting to see the back of the bends after what we've used in these past few storms," Smith said. "We burn through more material on a half-inch snow that lasts all day than a storm that would dump 6-8 inches of snow in a few hours. The plow and treat, plow and treat storms are hard on everything."

The forecast from the National Weather Service in St. Louis continues to call for below-normal temperatures in Central Missouri through next week.

NWS Meterologist Jared Maples said once the wintry mix moves through Thursday, bitter cold will be the biggest factor this weekend. High temperatures will barely be in the double-digits, with low temperatures expected around 0 degrees Saturday and Sunday.

"We are looking at the possibility of a system on Monday potentially getting organized, which might bring a few inches of snow; but we're still a few days out, so that could change," Maples said.

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