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Facing staff shortages, Cincinnati snow crews prepare for weekend of more winter weather

Sky 9 captured footage of this uncleared street in Cincinnati's West End neighborhood after the winter's first heavy snowfall, Jan. 28, 2020.
Posted at 3:10 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 15:17:14-05

CINCINNATI — The Department of Public Services is gearing up for round two of expected winter weather this weekend, after showing signs that COVID-related staffing shortages have slowed the pace at which crews can treat and clear snowy roads.

DPS crews will begin working at 7 p.m. Saturday in 12-hour shifts in anticipation of a wintry mix overnight that the National Weather Service forecasted could result in 1 to 3 inches of accumulated snow, according to a city news release.

FORECAST: 9 First Warning Weather Alert Day starts Saturday

The release asked that residents and drivers pass crews working at a safe speed and distance and, where possible, utilize off-street parking.

After Wednesday evening and Thursday morning's snowfall, some took to social media to voice their frustration with what they characterized as the city's slow response to the weather. Cincinnati police reported more than 30 snow-related crashes Thursday morning.

A DPS official told WCPO Thursday that the pandemic has reduced the department's workforce by nearly a third.

"With the standard compliment of 70 drivers currently down to 47 drivers due to COVID-19-related illness or exposure quarantine, staffing shortages have impacted our pace," they said in an email.

WCPO inquired Friday afternoon to confirm crews' staffing levels going into the weekend, but a department spokesperson could not be reached immediately.

During winter weather events, the city provides a live snowplow tracker here.

DPS is responsible for clearing snow from surface streets within the city limits, typically prioritizing hills, bridges, main roads and Downtown streets before moving through the rest of the city grid.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is responsible for snow treating interstate highways.