Plows ready to rumble |

Plows ready to rumble

Industrial snowblowers and plows don’t mix well with mailboxes, garbage cans or cars.

When these objects are in the city or county right-of-way, which on average extends about 6 to 10 feet from the edge of the pavement, bad things can happen.

If the object gets sucked up and damages the blower, property owners are responsible for repair bills. If the operator is blocked by a parked car or truck, the owner might find a warning notice or a late-night knock on the door telling them to move their car or else get a ticket.

“Cars parked in the street is a real problem,” said Thomas Halvorson, highway superintendent for El Dorado County. “Sometimes they are in such a position we can’t plow the road.”

When snow hits, El Dorado County clears 150 miles of road. The city deals with 125 miles of street. When it’s a big storm, their machines work 24-hours-a-day in 12-hour shifts.

Public works official at the county and city both stressed that residents should make an effort to figure out the location of their property line.

Once they do, all bear-proof garbage containers, garbage cans, mailboxes and cars need to be behind that line when plowable snow, about three inches in the eyes of officials, is on the ground.

With the arrival of a storm, snow plowing myths circulate among new homeowners, says Leo Tate, street supervisor for the city of South Lake Tahoe.

“Word of mouth by the speed of sound,” Tate said. “There’s always this fallacy the city plans to maintain driveways and keep them clear of snow. That’s plain not true.”

What is true is that the highest priority for city and county employees is to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles. But what about the entrances to driveways? Do they get ignored?

No. The industrial plows, called graters, that are used in the county and city have a hydraulic gate. Operators lower the gate to block the snow as it comes of the blade. They lower it when they pass driveways, marked with reflectors, made of wood or plastic. Metal markers can damage snow removal equipment, Tate said.

The gate doesn’t block all the snow, especially in a wetter storm, but the county and city say they do the best they can.

“If we used the gate, then what’s there is there,” Halvorson said. “There’s always some snow left at the driveway.”

Halvorson said if it’s determined that a gate was not used, a plow will revisit the area and fix the problem.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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