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COLUMN: Friday Morning Update from Mayor Tannehill

Mayor Robyn Tannehill

City crews are working six simultaneous clearing operations starting with major thoroughfares. There is no loose snow to aid traction. It is solid ice. Please stay home if you can. Our plan is to get as much ice cleared as possible so the sun can melt the rest and dry the roadways.

For those who like the details and are stir crazy at this point from being inside for so long and have nothing but time and a love for the whole story:

We had 6 crews running to clear roadways yesterday. I want to give a shout-out to all of the City departments and contractors that have stepped up to assist. Crew members and equipment from Street, Engineering, Building, mTrade Park, Oxford Utilities, Building and Grounds, City Shop, M & N Excavators, Lehman Roberts, Tri-Lakes Asphalt, Lafayette Ready Mix with HUGE support from OPD, Emergency Management, OFD, Oxford Park Commission and Visit Oxford. This is truly a team effort. Watching these departments come together to serve is amazing.

Road crews worked throughout the night putting slag on roads primarily at intersections and on hills and curves. Our only option last night was to close some roads. With nighttime temps in the teens, the daytime thaw just re-froze. The roads are very dangerous this morning. The areas where snow was plowed or has accumulated in the center of the lanes are frozen solid like concrete. The sun is working but it is making it extremely slick as it immediately refreezes. Our big trucks are sliding so please stay home. We are hitting West Jackson Avenue first before traffic makes it impossible.

We covered a lot of ground yesterday that should pay off when the sun hits it and we get a second round of cleaning. We anticipate that we will be slagging streets for several more nights.I posted yesterday on Twitter that we were having to stop operations of treating roadways in most areas due to the amount of traffic. This caused many to criticize and offer their expertise on how to clear roadways. Trying to get news out quickly can backfire. I didn’t use the best wording but my goal was to say if at all possible STAY AT HOME. We didn’t stop working, we moved to other areas that we’re seeing less traffic. Trying to clear roadways while still in the middle of multiple snow events and after having worked for 5-6 days straight with almost no rest – well, we are tired.

Some will say, “they are just doing their job!” And you aren’t wrong but, my goodness, it is hard work in freezing temperatures. And it is dangerous. Our number one concern is the safety of our citizens. The greatest fear of every person working is that they will be in an accident that harms a citizen. That is year-round and not just while on snow patrol. That fear is far greater than concerns for our own personal safety. When there is a risk to a citizen or ourselves, we literally stop our equipment in the roadway. When the risk is deemed too great, we cease operations on the roadway and move to another site.

Every car on the roadway is a potential hazard and we have to watch that car IN ADDITION to operating heavy equipment on ice-covered roadways. That alone slows our operation and efficiency. We are able to work faster and safer with fewer cars on the roadway. While preparing to spread rock on Price Hill to help a stranded motorist, multiple cars were driving around our equipment, the stranded car and our employees who were trying to check on the motorist.

One of our pieces of equipment had already spun around in the roadway trying to stop. These cars were also sliding putting everyone at risk. We had to stop and wait for traffic to clear in order to spread the rock. While working on CR 101, one of our trucks slid off of the roadway. He was then almost hit by an oncoming car that slid towards him. While we were attempting to pull him out, multiple cars continued to drive around us using the adjacent paved parking area keeping us from pulling him out and putting us all at risk as we sat broad-side in the roadway.

We had to wait for a break in traffic because traffic would not stop for us to even pull our truck out of the road. While working on Gold Club Road at 314 during the day, we had to flag traffic so that our equipment could enter the intersection. That often meant standing in the middle of an ice-covered road with cars coming from both directions. We also tried to stop traffic with our vehicles but many drove into the opposite lane of traffic to go around. While working on Belk, multiple pieces of our equipment slid backward down the hill.

We could not stop the equipment and would have hit any vehicle behind us. We have trucks following behind our equipment as a buffer between the equipment and other cars. However, our equipment doesn’t always slide straight back and some cars have been cutting between our vehicles in an attempt to pass.

OPD officers are spending hours pushing cars that can’t make it up a slight incline and that is EXTREMELY dangerous for those officers. You get the picture. And these are only a few examples. Our work is difficult and dangerous. Additional cars on the road make it more difficult and more dangerous. We know that people have to go to work or get essential food and we are working to get the major roadways open for them. That is why we have worked the hours we have.

We have been asking for people that can stay home to do so because that is the safest for them and for us. We know exactly what the road conditions are and we see how traffic is responding. Our heavy equipment and 4-wheel drive trucks are sliding on these roadways so we certainly expect cars and 2 wheel drive trucks to have a difficult and dangerous time. We also are seeing that many motorists are simply driving too fast on the roads making it more dangerous and more likely that there is going to be an accident.

We also see that drivers become overconfident when sections of the roadway are clear and then lose control when they approach intersections where the ice accumulates or a shady area or a curve. I warned you it would be a lot! We will continue to give it everything we’ve got. We are making great progress.

Our City employees are the most dedicated group of individuals I have ever known. I am only the cheerleader in this effort. Thank you for your patience with us as we dig out.

The Emergency Shelter is still available to any who needs a warm place and food. We have been blessed to serve citizens who needed it for a few hours and some who have stayed for several nights. Let us know if we can come pick you up!

**Vaccinations: Dr. Dobbs will announce by noon today whether the site will be open tomorrow for the reschedule date. I will update you as I hear more.

Robyn Tannehill is the mayor of Oxford. You can reach her at robyn@oxfordms.net.

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