Going ‘Snowhere’

By on January 27, 2016
Photographer Dwight Palm recorded Winter Storm Jonas as it started falling in Ephrata Friday night throughout Saturday where it crippled the  region.

Photo by Dwight Palm

Road crews in Ephrata and neighboring townships have worked around the clock since last weekend’s storm dumped 20-plus inches of snow which winds whipped into drifts as high as five feet in isolated spots.

Snow from Winter Storm Jonas started falling Friday night and was thick throughout Saturday, crippling the region. All business activity, except for a few local bars were closed on Saturday, and traffic was limited to plows, emergency vehicles, and an occasional snowmobile.

Dwight Palm, a photographer who lives in Downtown Ephrata documented the storm from its early arrival Friday around 5 p.m. through Saturday’s fun day where snowmobiles buzzed along Main Street and first responders from Pioneer Fire Co. traveled on four-wheel ATVs.

snowmobiles in winter storm jonas. photo by dwight palm.

Photo by Dwight Palm

Saturday was one for the dogs as social media gushed with pooches playing and popping in and out of unplowed snow drifts.

“They say it’s the best-est day ever for dogs,” Palm joked. “But I’d say the same thing about me.”

Sidewalks were not an option, and most pedestrians who ventured out took to the streets as their only avenue for movement.

Though there’s no official snow-fall total specific to Ephrata, most people measuring arrived at a very similar total.

Thomas Natarian, Ephrata Borough’s director of operations said Ephrata hit around the 25-inch range.

On Facebook, people asked if the snow was a record. While that is not an easy question to answer due to drifting, a photo from Patricia Phillips would indicate a record.

“Went to 30 inches in my driveway without the drifts,” stated her caption beneath a photograph of a yardstick 30-inches deep in the snow.

The National Weather Service on Monday listed nearby snow totals at 24.4 inches.

At least one news outlet claimed the area received 26 inches over the weekend. As for the county, the storm fell short of a record-breaker, according to Eric Horst, meteorologist from Millersville, where snowfall records have been measured since the 1970s.

Horst said Millersville got 26.7 inches, short of the 30 inches recorded there in 1996.

Sunday was a dig-out day for most people, and a chorus of snow blowers provided the soundtrack for the borough.

Plowed snow deposits at street corners produced small mountains that initially obstructed sight-lines at some intersections. Another problem during the early phase of clean-up was that there was no place to put all the snow.

Such safety issues compelled the Ephrata and Cocalico school districts, like most in the county, to close Monday and Tuesday (Elanco and CV remained open) as clean-up continued.

Ephrata and Cocalico also announced a two-hour delay for the start of school on Wednesday.

Not surprisingly, Natarian on Tuesday was still consumed by the snow emergency.

“We have had every single piece of equipment we have on the road since Friday night,” he said.

Like most municipal operations in the county, road crews in Ephrata worked through the nights trucking snow off the streets and reducing the size of the mounds at intersections.

Natarian explained the roll and strategy employed by area municipal road crews on Saturday

“At the beginning of the storm the focus was upon keeping the emergency routes passable,” he said. “When snow is coming down at the rate of up to one to two inches per hour, maintaining those emergency routes is critical to public safety.”

For the first few hours crews applied a salt mixture to the roads. Once about two inches had fallen the plowing began.

“Plowing continued throughout the duration of the storm,” Natarian said. “Late Saturday, when the snow began to taper off, the crews expanded their plowing into secondary streets.”

Knowing a big storm was on the way, Ephrata worked with crew members to come up with a split schedule.

“Working 12 hours on and 12 hours off we had enough manpower to keep every piece of equipment on the road 24-7 for the duration of the storm,” Natarian said.

Photo by Pat Burns Major Dick Winters seemed to be frozen in time during last week - end’s historic storm

Photo by Pat Burns

As of Sunday morning most streets had received at least one pass, he said. Throughout the day on Sunday crews focused upon opening up roads to create one passable travel lane.

“By Sunday night we were hauling snow to Grater Park and started working on alleys,” Natarian said. “By Monday morning most of the alleys had a single lane passable. Work continued throughout Monday clearing side roads, opening up intersections, and getting the emergency routes cleaned down to the pavement. Monday evening we were, once again, hauling snow to Grater Park.”

Since then crews have worked to widen roads, clear out storm drains, and making “sure school routes are cleared, and hopefully getting back to normal.”

With the focus upon clearing the snow, neither Ephrata Borough nor Ephrata Township had tabulated all the details regarding salt usage, over-time, and other storm related costs.

“Fortunately we started with a full supply of salt – approximately 400 tons,” Natarian. “We applied 200 to 300 pounds per lane mile depending upon conditions.”

Ephrata Borough on Monday received another shipment of salt.

“So, we are in good shape for the next few weeks – hopefully no more blizzards,” he said.

ER Snowblower Monday

Photo by Pat Burns

Some meteorologists have talked about another storm lurking at the end of this week. But Horst dispelled that threat early Monday morning on the Millersville website, where he appeared to take a shot at overzealous forecasters.

“Ongoing mongering of a late-week snowstorm continues to look unwarranted…but this won’t stop the click-baiting of the hypesters,” Horst said.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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