City News

“Worst spring they can remember:” Madison’s street superintendent reflects on unusual April day

Some senior members within Madison’s Streets Division have said this is “the worst spring they can remember.”

Image By: Betsy Osterberger

When Madison Streets Superintendent Charlie Romines woke up on Wednesday, he knew a storm was coming. He just didn’t know how big.

In the early morning, forecasts predicted one to three inches of snow, and by 9:00 a.m. those estimates jumped to three to five inches. However, Romines said, “it just kept getting worse and worse.”

By the end of the day, parts of Madison had more than half a foot of snow.

Romines went home for dinner and a quick nap before returning to the office at 10 p.m. to monitor street conditions and call in an overnight crew to clear sidewalks, especially in the city’s neighborhoods.

“Even in a winter like this where there wasn’t a lot of snowfall until April … there were still a lot of responses made over the winter,” he said. “You hope by the time you get to mid-April that’s over.”

Romines said what makes this April unique is how consistently below-average temperatures have been.

“Talking with some people that have been in Madison’s Streets Division for 20 to 30 years they’ve said this is, in their opinion, the worst spring they can remember,” he said.

As Madison residents may expect (or at least hope), when the division begins to hit late March and April, they switch out equipment to shift from snow removal to street sweeping, Romines said. With the weather that hit this week, Romines said they are right back in winter mode.

“We’ve got a good group of people, we’ve got a good shop, we’ve got a good relationship with the Madison Fleet Division, so we had our equipment up and running ready to make a response,” he said.

Romines noted that because of variables like amount of daylight and increasing temperatures, the cleanup process is different then it would be in January.

As far as the street division's budget is concerned, handling snow this late hasn’t taken them off course, although Romines said they’ve had to increase its order of salt for next season by 750 tons. Salt is $70 per ton.

The division was able to save a significant amount of money by not calling in a general plow.

As the snow melts, Romines said his team is working with city engineers to clear storm drains to make sure residents’ basements don’t flood.

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