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County warns drivers to stay off roads
County warns drivers to stay off roads

Many drivers received state patrol tickets after abandoning their cars when they couldn't get up the Longview Road hill.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Jan. 27, 2009) — County Commissioner Bill Farnham has a strong warning for area residents: stay off the county roads during snowfall conditions.

“Right now, if you’re not an emergency vehicle — and I mean ambulance drivers, fire trucks, and police and sheriff deputy cars — you don’t need to be out there,” Farnham said Tuesday night.

Even the well-funded Missouri Department of Transportation road crews weren’t able to keep major roads cleared Tuesday night. While crews worked hard to keep Interstate 44 passable, rural secondary roads such as Highway 17 and Highway AB near Laquey were barely touched by 10 p.m., urban routes under MoDOT jurisdiction such as Old Route 66 and Historic Route 66 through St. Robert and Waynesville were in spotty condition.

City road crews have much less territory to cover, but St. Robert and Waynesville snow removal crews struggled to keep up with the snowfall. However, Farnham said trying to keep the county’s hundreds of miles of rural roads clear while the snow is falling is a hopeless task and he’s told his road crews not to even start work on most roads until the snowfall ends.

“Until it quits, there’s not a lot that we can do; I’ve been watching the Weather Channel and keeping a close eye on things,” Farnham said. “It’s dangerous out there. Right now we are not doing anything until it gets done snowing. You can put salt and pea gravel down, but it doesn’t help because it just gets covered up as quick as you put it down.”

Farnham emphasized that he’s not ignoring critical road problems. He personally went out to a Monday night fire when Waynesville Rural Fire Chief Doug Yurecko called for emergency help so fire trucks could safely get down a steep hill to reach a fully involved residential structure fire.

“I was with them when they went out to the fire on Laramie Road; I think we went there four times,” Farnham said.

Yurecko called for help from MoDOT trucks when county road crews couldn’t immediately respond, but Farnham said a mechanical problem with a salt and gravel spreader on one of his county road trucks was able to be solved within 10 minutes by loading a different truck to respond to the Laramie Road fire.

“We had to go grab the other truck,” Farnham said. “We had two trucks loaded in the garage because we did have heat there, but we had to get a truck ready that was outside because the spreader wasn’t working on one of the trucks that was inside.”

While the county’s western district is mostly rural and residents who live on gravel roads generally have four-wheel-drive pickups or SUVs and are used to having snow-covered roads for hours or days after a major snowfall, Farnham’s eastern district has many paved roads and residential subdivisions whose residents are used to the level of service they would receive in a city, but which the county doesn’t have the money to provide.

That became an especially serious problem on Longview Road off Highway 17 north of Waynesville leading up to Shalom Mountain and Northern Heights Estates. Many residents who couldn’t get their vehicles up the steep and slick hill abandoned their cars at the bottom of the hill Monday night, and that made matters even worse.

“(Monday) night, there were so many cars we had trouble getting the plow through,” Farnham said. “We were surprised that we hadn’t received any calls from anybody, but when we went out there, the Highway Patrol was sure glad to see us there.”

Motorists may not have been as glad to see Trooper K. Baldwin, who ticketed numerous drivers who left their vehicles at the bottom of the hill and called tow trucks to remove some of the cars that were blocking the roadway. About 20 cars were left at the bottom of the hill when Farnham arrived Monday night and about a half dozen were still at the bottom of the hill by noon on Tuesday.

Farnham said state troopers, not sheriff’s deputies, made the decision to ticket vehicles blocking the roadway.

Other problem areas include the Ridge Creek subdivision where there are many dead-end roads that are steep. Farnham said he goes out with his road crews so the truck drivers have an extra person to spot danger areas and avoid hitting mailboxes or running a snowplow into a roadside ditch.

“Sometimes you’ve got to get out and direct traffic,” Farnham said. “In a lot of the neighborhoods, the hills are so steep that one person on the truck is not enough.”

Winter driving can be hazardous, Farnham said, and drivers from urban areas may not realize that snow removal is much slower in the county than in the cities. Farnham said he was glad to see schools, municipal government, and Fort Leonard Wood close most operations on Tuesday so students and workers didn’t have to travel.

“I just want everyone to be safe,” Farnham said. “Stay home where it’s warm and give the road and bridge guys the chance to go out and get the roads cleared.”

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