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By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Writer


As Clayton County residents have learned in the past, winter ice storms and rural gravel roads don’t mix.  

“Ice on gravel is really challenging to take care of,” Clayton County Engineer Rafe Koopman said. “We have been putting in a lot of overtime after last Monday’s ice storm. For the first three days, we were running motor graders 12 hours a day.”

Koopman said that hills are the biggest problem.  

“Once something breaks free there is no control over graders and trucks if they begin to slide backwards,” he commented. “During this storm clean-up, we didn’t use trucks on the gravel roads. We just used graders with ice scrapers. Even with those precautions, we had a few people go into the ditch but there were no major problems. We put barricades on a couple of roads that no one lives on by Sny McGill.”

“We realize that in a county with this much rural agriculture, people have to get around to different fields and barns,” he continued. “With ice, it takes about three times longer to get around to all the county roads than it does with snow. That’s not our normal response time, but we try to balance safety and getting the roads clear. However, the guys have been doing a great job, and our equipment has held up.”

Koopoman said that, as of last Thursday, some roads still had not been totally cleared.  

“The ice is still pretty thick on some patches of gravel that do not get any sun,” he said. “The warm weather helped break those areas up a bit, so we can scrape them down. We also appreciated that the schools closed, as well as several businesses. That kept people off the roads and made our job easier.”

Clearing the roads of ice has entailed more than just overtime.  

“Between earlier snow and this ice, we have used up a lot of materials,” Koopman said. “If it continues like this, supplies will be short, as our salt comes in by river barges. However, we manage things carefully, so we should be OK. Each year, we just have to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”


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