How costly was the mid-April snowstorm that was dubbed Blizzard Evelyn? When the Door County Highway Dept. tallied up all the costs they billed various entities for snow removal for the intense, heavy snow that started on Friday the 13th and fell non-stop throughout that weekend, the total came to $298,023.84.
“Yeah, very expensive,” Highway Commissioner John Kolodziej reported to the county Highway Committee at its monthly meeting on May 14. “It was a very interesting operation for us. We were really, really stressed to our limits with equipment and staffing issues.”
Unbeknownst to the public, that weekend the department was short two men out on medical leave and was down a grader sidelined by mechanical problems.
Kolodziej said the first call about the snowfall came from Southern Door just before 10 pm on Friday, April 13.
“We were only supposed to get three to five inches overnight. We were not looking at anything major,” he said.
By 10:30 pm crews were working to keep the state highway cleared in the south.
“It was around 12:30 when it started to accumulate up north,” Kolodziej said, so the northern highway crews were called out.
“By 1 am, we already had 3 to 5 inches. It came down very heavy,” he said. By 2 am, all hands were called to report to work.
“Between 1 and 5 in the morning, I think it snowed between 6 to 8 inches,” Kolodziej said. “Our primary objective was to maintain what we call the lifeline roads. We stayed on those roadways for the most part, and as we could crews broke away to get into towns and villages.”
When the snow kept coming down, a city bridge tender and a highway supervisor were called in to drive.
“We had covered 24 hours a day for a 48-hour period,” he said.
The department was also struggling with its own equipment getting stuck, dealing vehicles that had been abandoned in roadways and clearing paths for emergency vehicles, which Kolodziej pointed out was made much easier with the help of a GPS software program that pinpoints where all the vehicles are.
“It was hugely invaluable in an operation like that,” he said. “We had several emergency calls. It allows us to look online and see what truck is closest.”
Kolodziej had high praise for the dispatchers who kept the department alerted to problems, and all of his staff.
“The staff did a remarkable job. Just fantastic,” he said. “Their response and dedication, I just can’t say enough. We received a lot of really good comments from people on our response.”
In other Highway Committee matters:
• The committee unanimously approved proposed ATV/UTV trails in the Town of Baileys Harbor – on County EE from Red Cherry Road to County F, and County F to Highway 57 to Meadow Road, and County E from County A to Red Cherry Road.
Kolodziej said he had some safety concerns about the routes, especially when in an urbanized area, but added that he has not heard of a single problem after similar trails were approved in the towns of Brussels, Forestville, Gardner, Nasewaupee, Union and Washington.
“It’s been awesome,” said Supervisor Joel Gunnlaugsson, who represents Washington Island. “I will never, ever not support this.”
Supervisor Roy Englebert, who also serves as town chair of Forestville, said he just got calls on Saturday about someone almost getting hit by an ATV on County J, as well as ATVs speeding on J.
“I’m not in favor of ATVs on county roads,” he said. “I think they’re dangerous myself.”
“It’s a game of education. They have to follow the rules,” Gunnlaugsson said.
The proposal now goes to the Door County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
• Approved a request to lower the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 on County C, starting at its intersection with Highway 57 and .39 miles south at the intersection with County DK. The original request had sought a reduction to 35 mph.
• Approved the $11,606 low bid of Buhr Construction for roof repairs to a south shop salt shed.