Cincinnati road crews face heavy snowfall on top of COVID-related staff shortage

Posted at 3:18 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 19:32:46-05

CINCINNATI — City snow removal crews battled levels of snowfall Tuesday morning they haven't seen in roughly a decade, and -- to add to the challenge -- they did it with a staff diminished by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Public Services had 55 snow truck drivers out at any given time overnight treating the city's roads as heavy and rapid snowfall hit the region around midnight. That's eight more than the department had during last month's snow event. That's when the city faced some severe criticism on social media from residents frustrated to find their streets still hadn't been cleared by midday.

Jarred Bolden, the department's superintendent of traffic and road operation, praised the crews' response Tuesday morning, acknowledging the limitations COVID-19 has thrust on his team.

"They did an excellent job of doing what they could," he said. "I think many forecasters predicted 2 to 4 inches, and, as we all know, we got a lot more than 4 inches, so they did what they could to keep up as much as possible under the conditions."

Hyde Park resident, Sotiris Pagdadis said city trucks had come by his street "a couple of times" as of Tuesday morning.

"The trucks have been coming, they're doing a great job," he said. "You just sort of have to get out of their way."

Others, like Stacey Obermeyer, said she found her drive Tuesday morning messy through Camp Washington on her way to Covington.

"It was horrible," she told WCPO. "There was probably I saw at least 6 to 8 cars broke down on the side of the road or wrecked."

Bolden said the challenge extends beyond short staffing.

"Every event is different. Last time... the snow came down quickly, and it froze, so it caused a lot of issues for drivers," he said. "For this type of event, it's different, we have more accumulation and it hasn't frozen to the ground right away. So each event is different. And we have to approach it as its own."

Bolden said he expects his crews to continue their 12-hour shifts over the next few days, as more snowfall and freezing rain remained in the forecast for Wednesday night into early Thursday morning.

See the most recent forecast here.