INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Indianapolis has recorded more snow over the last five days than it saw during the entire winter last year. With so much falling so early, some snow removal budgets are already being stretched.
90 Indy Snow Force drivers hit the roads early Monday afternoon, dropping a mixture of salt and magnesium chloride. Another 90 drivers will report at 11 p.m.
It's their sixth full call out of the week. And, as the snow piles up, so are costs.
180 drivers have been working 12 hour shifts, patrolling more than 6,000 lane miles on major streets alone.
It's been one of their busiest weeks in years.
"We've been pretty much going non-stop since the blizzard, and we're at ‘better safe than sorry'," said Indianapolis Department of Public Works spokesperson Lesley Malone. "We saw that the last snowfall turned a little bigger than predicted. So, we just want to make sure our streets are covered and prepared."
This year, the city budgeted $8.4 million for snow removal. DPW hasn't calculated how much of that money it's used so far, Malone said. But, with more than 14 inches of snow already on the ground, costs have already risen. Just 8.9 inches of snow fell all of last winter.
"We've already exceeded our snow total from last year. So, it's definitely night and day," Malone said.
Still, there is a "greenish" tinted lining of sorts: Indianapolis began this winter with 14,000 tons of salt in its barns. Almost all of it was leftover from the year before.
"We were able to start our season off with all of our salt barns at full capacity," Malone said. "It's one of those balancing acts. And, that was put in the budget and anticipated."
That effect can be multiplied in smaller towns as well.
"There's absolutely no comparison," said Brownsburg Streets Superintendent Jim Waggoner. "We plowed once, I believe, last year, and really didn't even need to then. We've saved a considerable amount of money due to the weather on salt products, labor, fuel and what have you. So, there's no comparison."
Last year's mild winter also allowed Brownsburg's salt reserves to remain stocked.
"We're still working off last year's salt," Waggoner said. "It put us ahead budget-wise. We were able to do some other things with some of the funds and still have enough money left over to buy more salt."
Brownsburg spent just $50,000 of its $125,000 salt budget during the winter of 2011-2012. The unused money helped buy two new trucks and a new plow. Indianapolis, and other local cities and counties, were also able to reinvest some of their excess funding to upgrade equipment.
Still, Waggoner admits that f the snow keeps coming like it has this week, local surpluses could go quickly.
"There will be no parties for the street department [on New Year's Eve]--and other departments. We'll be ready when it comes," he said.
1:30 P.M. UPDATE: Indiana State Police handled 20 slide-offs in the Bloomington district because of the winter weather, as of 12:30 p.m. Troopers also reported 14 car crashes and 16 cases of helping a motorist.
Click to see photos from the First Prairie Creek Church Fire.
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