Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 21, 2013

Winter woes: Roads, homes need mending

BY ART BUKOWSKI
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Chad Allen’s crews can handle snow, but howling winds and icy rain are another matter.

Allen is vice president of Buckley-based Story Roofing Company. Workers there have had just about enough of wildly fluctuating winter weather and seemingly incessant wind.

“It’s been a nightmare. It’s hard on guys,” he said. “We have professional tradesmen out there trying not to get blown off roofs, or we can’t work because it’s raining one day and then a blizzard the next.”

And the brutal weather takes a toll on more than just the workers’ bodies. Less-than-ideal weather delayed several projects, forcing Story to reduce worker hours.

“We like to keep guys’ paychecks in their pockets, but it’s been a constant battle,” Allen said. “It’s tough.”

So far, the winter of 2012-13 pulled out all the stops on northern Michigan: record highs, subzero lows and everything in between. The freeze-thaw cycle caused significant problems in several areas, perhaps the most noticeable being Traverse City’s streets.

Potholes — some giant — present a constant threat to motorists. Mark Jones, city street superintendent, said crews patched double the number of potholes as they did last winter.

“It’s been a bad year,” he said. “When you get the cold temperatures, and then the warm-ups with the rain, and then back to freezing, it blows all the patch out of the potholes.”

Recent heavy snow compounded those woes, Jones said, largely because it has made it near impossible to effectively fill the holes.

“That’s another problem,” he said. “You kind of need to wait until the snow stops. You have to fix them, but you’re just not going to get a quality job.”

Snowfall totals are down this winter, in no small part because of periodic warm-ups. Traverse City has received about 65 inches of snow so far this winter, compared with an average of about 84 inches by this time, Gaylord-based National Weather Service Meteorologist Tim Locker said. Not much snow is expected in the next couple of days, he said.

Fluctuating winter weather can lead to home maintenance issues, particularly in regards to ice build up. But it’s the area around the home that is most troubling to Lorraine and Dale Aurand, longtime Traverse City residents who live on Ninth Street.

“It’s winter, and from time to time you expect a blizzard or a heavy snowstorm, and you don’t think much of it,” Dale said as he shoveled his walkway. “But what’s bothered me this winter is it’s 40 degrees, and then it’s zero.”

The melt-freeze cycle makes for extremely icy sidewalks and roads, Dale and Lorraine said. They tread very carefully as they make their way around town.

“It’s gets awful walking, and we do a lot of that being this close to town,” Lorraine said.