The plows were out for the first true snow fall of the winter. Remember to give them plenty of room to operate and remove all parked vehicles from the road. A snow emergency is in effect automatically for snow falls of two inches or more. Photo by Bruce Karnick
Like it or not, winter has arrived

Sorry to any fans of the popular HBO show “Game of Thrones,” the opportunity to use the iconic line has passed. Winter is not coming, it is here. Last week on Wednesday and Thursday, people were out wearing shorts and t-shirts, and Friday morning at 6:00 a.m., it was still 67 degrees according to the unofficial weather station at this reporter’s home. By noon on Friday, temps had dropped to the 50’s and by mid to late afternoon it was below freezing with a strong wind. As this is being written, snow is falling and there is already half an inch of accumulation on the ground with the expectation of one to three inches total by the end of Monday. Winter is here, and are you prepared?

Each winter, this article becomes a bit easier to write; in many ways, it’s a simple cut and paste from the previous year’s stories as reminders of wintery things. From safety tips to local laws, the bulk of the content stays the same, but is so very important to know. This yearly reminder could be the thing needed to save folks a ticket or could save a life, who knows since the universe works in mysterious ways. What is known is, the staff at Hastings Public Works is already going to have to plow and treat Hastings’s roads.

Hastings has around 105 miles of city streets that are maintained by the Hastings Public Works Department. Let that number sink in a little. 105 miles… According to Google Maps, if you were to travel from the Hastings Post office to Grand Casino Hinkley, that is 99.2 miles, and it would take one hour and 35 minutes. Hastings to St. Cloud State, 94.7 or 101 miles depending on which way you go, and it would take 1:39 or 1:41, respectively. You could be in Iowa at Diamond Jo Casino by driving 107 miles in 1:45. Slippery’s Bar and Grill, made famous by Grumpy Old Men in Wabasha, is only 56 miles in an hour and 10 minutes, so you would have to continue down to Winona State and you still would only drive 88.7 miles in 1:42. Nearly all those trips are mostly done at 60-70 miles per hour.

Behind the wheel of a plow truck, you are not coming close to that speed with the plow down in residential areas. When they drive by the house, they look to be going at most, 20 mph, probably closer to 15. 105 miles at 15 mph would take seven hours to drive. According to the FAQ section on the City of Hastings website, it takes crews an average of eight to ten hours to have the roads cleared in town.

Priority plowing -How does the city decide which roads are plowed first? The priority is emergency vehicle and higher volume routes, and they move to the ancillary streets and culde-sacs. Then repeat if needed. Their goal is to conduct operations consistently to increase efficiency. Meaning, they have a route they take each snowfall to help the driver be more efficient. Changing the route means drivers must stop and read the route sheet more often. The more you do the route, the more you can do from memory.

Safe distances -When the plows are out, please, remember to keep a safe distance from them on all sides. These vehicles are huge, dangerous and have many blind spots. The blades can also kick up stones and ice, so keep kids away from the wake. This is also why they stay away from the curbs and mailboxes. It minimizes the risk of damage to property and it is not always convenient.

Snow Emergencies -Snow emergencies take effect automatically when there is two inches or more of fresh snow. That means all vehicles need to be cleared from streets or they risk being ticketed and towed. The ticket alone is $77, the tow is significantly more. The city used to use a service called Nixle to text alerts out to residents. That is no longer an option and there are no official announcements of snow emergencies, they are automatically declared. If you miss the snow emergency and end up getting towed, the city uses Southeast Towing located in the industrial park. Their phone number is 651-437-2446.

Sidewalks -Who is responsible for sidewalks? The owner or renter of the property the sidewalk is on. Hastings has a simple city code for sidewalk snow removal. Code requires you to clear sidewalks on your property within 48 hours after the end of a snowfall for general public safety. If it has been over 48 hours and the sidewalk is not cleared, that can be reported to public works at 651-480-6185. Once reported, the homeowner will be notified to perform the work otherwise public works will clear the sidewalk and the homeowner will be billed. This goes for businesses as well. The business is responsible for clearing all sidewalks their property touches.

Trash service during the winter -It is recommended that trash and recycle bins are left behind the curb line and not in the street as they cause issues for plows. Because of the wake that plows can cause, trash bins can get knocked over. If this happens, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to clean up any messes made. If possible, it may be best to bring the bins down just before the garbage trucks arrive if your street has not been plowed yet. Remember, the reach of most of the garbage trucks is under five feet and drivers usually stay a foot or two out in the street to avoid getting stuck or sliding into your property, so leaving carts behind the snowplow piles does not work.

Adopt a Hydrant -Much like sidewalks, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to clear a path to the street from and at least three feet around any fire hydrant on their property. This is extremely important if the hydrant were needed. Remember, seconds count in an emergency. This is why Hastings has created the Adopt-a-Hydrant program. The program asks neighbors to help each other keep hydrants clear in the winter. Check with the homeowner that has a fire hydrant near you to see if they need help clearing it. Maybe because it is difficult for them or maybe because of the timing of the storm and they cannot get to it right away.

Postal Delivery -For your carrier to get to the mailbox, you are required to give them a clear path. If you live on a walking route, consider clearing a path through your yard to give them the shortest route possible. If you have a mailbox at the end of the drive, clear some extra space around it to make their job a little easier. If you have a larger, neighborhood mailbox on your property, remember, you are responsible for keeping it accessible.

Safety Kit -Prep a roadside safety kit and keep it in your vehicle, especially for those that drive on low maintenance, rural roads. Emergency blankets, a lot of larger hand warmers, some ‘slow to expire’ snacks like protein bars, water. Yes, water will freeze, but it’s easier to melt that into a drinkable water than snow. Add in some glow sticks and a portable radio with a hand crank charger and USB port and you will have the ability to charge your phone to call for help.

Shoveling -Stretch and get your muscles loose before you step out to shovel for at least five minutes.. Shoveling is major exercise, so pace yourself. If you become short of breath and you feel a pounding in your chest, take a break and slow down. If it becomes too much for you, reach out to your neighbors or any of the snow removal businesses in the area.

Winter is here, like it or not, be safe out there.

The view from across Highway 61 was hazy and the Hastings City Hall was draped in winter’s glory with the snow coming down on Monday. Photo by Bruce Karnick

November 16, 2022