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Residents urged to clear fire hydrants

SALEM — While digging out driveways, unburying cars and cleaning sidewalks, firefighters want residents to include fire hydrants on their snow clearing list.

“We’ve got people out working on hydrants,” Salem Fire Capt. Shawn Mesler said.

Two crew members spent the afternoon digging out as many fire hydrants as possible in between calls, but Mesler said residents can help out by keeping hydrants in their own neighborhoods clear of snow.

Having to clear snow from around a hydrant during an actual emergency can cost time.

Firefighters have a snow plow on the department pickup and Mesler spent most of Sunday night and Monday keeping the entrance to the fire department plowed and the parking lot between the fire department and the police department plowed so emergency vehicles could get in and out.

He said one of the biggest problems they ran into was maneuverability during medical calls due to the deep snow.

“Moving patients has been difficult,” he said.

Police officers helped some residents whose vehicles got stuck on city streets. Even though it’s something officers don’t have to do, they knocked on doors to get some vehicles removed from the streets for the snow emergency parking ban.

“They were out moving cars all night,” Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott said.

Some vehicles had to be towed, but officers try to give owners a chance to move them first.

The parking ban started at 5 p.m. Sunday and continued through 5 p.m. Monday, meaning no vehicles were to be parked on any city streets during that time. Salem Service/Safety Director Joe Cappuzzello announced the parking ban Friday, it was posted on social media and was posted by news media outlets, giving residents notice. Signs are also posted around the city which indicate the snow emergency parking ban takes effect anytime there’s a forecast for 4 or more inches of snow.

Some communities saw three times that, close to 12 inches, during the storm named Izzy and some saw even more, especially in areas where there’s drifting.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Cappuzzello said.

The street crew now led by street foreman Shawn Smith hit the city streets beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday and continued working through the night and day. Cappuzzello said they had eight trucks out plowing and salting and drivers reported seeing a mixed bag of tricks which included rain, sleet and snow.

As of Monday afternoon, he said they planned to make a final pass throughout the city, then call it a day after 24 hours straight. He said main roads were clear and secondary roads were passable, but warned that travelers should be cautious.

“Thank you to all the Salem residents for abiding by the parking ban. Your cooperation with so few cars parked on the streets make it much safer for the street department and more efficient in their snow runs,” Cappuzzello said.

During his own afternoon run around the city to check on conditions, he said he saw very few cars on the road and some of the larger stores like Walmart, Giant Eagle and Marc’s were just getting their lots plowed.

Schools, the U.S. Postal Service and banks were all closed Monday to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but many other businesses also shut down due to the weather conditions, including some of the area restaurants and medical offices. Salem Regional Medical Center closed multiple professional office locations until noon Monday. The Banquet in Salem cancelled for the night.

Most of the area schools announced Monday that they would be closed again today, this time due to the inclement weather, including Hannah E. Mullins School of Practical Nursing in Salem.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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