Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stop Whining and Do The Math

UPDATE, Thursday, January 28 -- From what I'm hearing around town every street, or nearly so, has been cleared by now. If your street still hasn't been touched, or needs salt, contact dperry@norristown.org. Also, from what I'm hearing from the majority of people, thought it took a few days, the end result is that streets were cleaned better than in past snowstorms (see some of my blogs from past winters). My immediate neighborhood certainly looks much better. In the past, if it was touched at all, Astor St. usually only got a quick pass with the plow and wasn't even salted, and it would stay snow or ice covered sometimes for weeks. Yesterday it looked great. I think the municipality did a much better job than in the past and I hope it continues.

One further note, if you're encountering unshoveled sidewalks, that's the responsibility of the homeowners not the borough. Half our properties are landlord owned. Sometimes the tenants will clear walks, but it's ultimately the landlord's responsibility.

Tuesday, Jan 26th: Yesterday morning I logged onto Facebook and was surprised to learn that one of our councilman, Mr. Millner, had apparently talked to NBC10 less than 24 hours after the end of the blizzard to say that Norristown had failed at snow removal. Mr. Millner's a minister. It occurred to me that he of all people ought to understand the concept of "act of God."

Or if you're not so religiously inclined, call it an act of nature. Or a result of climate change. But what you SHOULDN'T call it, or imply that it was (as Mr. Millner and a lot of other whining residents are doing) is a normal snowstorm. It wasn't anywhere near normal.

The National Weather Service says Norristown got 30 inches of snow. That's the 2nd most in my lifetime, beat out only by the Blizzard of 1996. We had a 2-foot snowfall in the mid-sixties and close to that in 1978, but this kind of storm only comes around about once every 20 years (though, it could become more frequent with climate change).

In the Blizzard of 1996, Norristown was at a standstill for a week. No one went anywhere. Our family had to go downtown after 5 days for a viewing and funeral. The streets were deserted, which was just as well, because parking was impossible. Every intersection was marked by a 13 foot pile of snow because nobody knew where else to put it.

So, this time, in less than 24 hours, you folks think all that snow should have miraculously disappeared? Do you think we have a magic snow fairy who takes it away in the middle of the night?

Here's the math. Norristown is 4 square miles. That's 111,513,600 square feet. Two and a half feet of snow fell on it. That's 278 MILLION, 784 THOUSAND cubic feet of the white stuff. That's about 200 million more cubic feet than we're used to receiving in on of our usual bad snowfalls. Sure, some of it's on lawns and roofs, but the rest is someplace where it needs to be moved. It takes time to move that much snow. It takes a little strategy, too, to figure out where to put the snow and how to clear a narrow street without blocking the cars in or dumping snow back onto cleaned walks.

Norristown has more miles of streets than any of the surrounding townships. My best friend in King of Prussia only had her street plowed yesterday. Why are me supposed to be more superhuman than Upper Merion, who doesn't have the same volume of snow to move?  We have narrow streets filled with parked cars. Much more of a challenge than spread out suburban developments. They have lots of room to pile snow, we don't.

Someone on Nextdoor.com was saying how stupid Council and Public Works was to get rid of small plows because they now had nothing to do the narrow streets with. I don't know where she got her info. It seems to be wrong. I do know that there were front end loaders out doing small streets yesterday--a much better idea than a plow in those spots. The small plow that tried to do my alley ended up leaving a huge mountain of snow partially blocking my drive. Small plows don't work in this kind of situation. The front end loaders are slower but a much better solution.

I think it's too soon to say if Norristown is or isn't doing a good job with snow removal. We're only 3 days away from the blizzard. This is a special situation. I think our Public Works workers have been doing as excellent a job as they can. They were out all during the blizzard, working long shifts, getting emergency vehicles unstuck, getting doctors and nurses to area hospitals, and still managing to make plow passes on our major arteries. The plow crew that went down Fornance Street Sunday morning looked absolutely exhausted. They're human, they're doing the best they can, and I thank them for it. Give them the recognition they deserve instead of grief. They're heroes.

I'm going to point out another hero, Buck Jones, and his friends who, instead of whining have been out around town helping people dig out. That should be everyone's response. Help your neighbors. Make sure the elderly are dug out enough so they can at least have someone pick them up or get deliveries of food and medicine. I know the majority of N-town residents are all doing the right thing and riding this out with common sense.

The rest of you need to calm yourselves. Be patient. Slow down. We've been hit by a tremendous act of nature. Municipal Hall didn't cause it. Council didn't cause it. You need to adapt for a week instead of stamping your feet. If your street still isn't cleared by, say Feburary 1, fine, then rant all you want.
Fornance St, Wednesday morning Jan 27. See comment and reply below.


  1. Can you really answer why our neighboring communities (Phoenixville, East and West Norriton, Conshohocken and even Philadelphia never, ever seem to have the same troubles with snow removal as Norristown? This isn't just a one-time, big snow storm problem, this is emblematic of a larger issue with the Streets Department. I agree we should be helping one another dig out, but if we can't get off our streets, how can we get to work, to the store, etc.?

  2. Read paragraph 7.
    The "real" answer is that they do have the same problems, ON A SMALLER SCALE. The surrounding townships and communities are still cleaning up, but no one there is complaining about it. We've got, I repeat, many more miles of streets and narrower ones. Why is that so hard to understand? They interviewed people on narrow streets in Philly today. Know what they said? The street will get cleaned eventually. It's this way in every big storm. They had no problem waiting. I'm not saying Ntown hasn't had problems in the past. I'm saying that to expect an overnight cleanup is ridiculously unrealistic. Give it a few days. If it still isn't handled by next week, then complain. (I said that in the last paragraph--reread that too.)

  3. I drove from Norristown to Langhorne and back again, and not in the Turnpike. This morning I drove to Radnor and back, and again to Langhorne. Norristown was the only place that was difficult to drive through. Fornance St., which I consider to be a main road in town, was barely a 1 1/2 lanes, and still snow covered. When we pay the highest taxes around, it is a little difficult to be patient, when everywhere else is doing a better job. Other area school districts were able to open with a 2 hour delay, but Norristown had to close, because the buses couldn't get around town.

    1. I don't know when you drove on Fornance St, but it had to be before Monday afternoon. I live on Fornance and my block and the one above it hasn't been snow covered since then. See the photo I added to the bottom of the blog. The street is clear of snow and 2 full lanes, and it was that way all day yesterday as well. Please do not misrepresent the facts. If you have a better plan of how to remove the snow, let's hear it.

  4. Bravo Elena
    I am not the best at math, but we need to real about the situation. Thanks

  5. If Norristown streets are pretty much dug out by now (Wednesday mid-afternoon), why are SEPTA buses still using Markley and Main streets as "weather-related" detours?

    As a pedestrian, I'm still grappling with whole swaths of sidewalk still covered by a foot or more of hard-pack snow and ice. This forces me to abandon any attempt for safely traversing to/from my home and into already constrained driving conditions into oncoming vehicle traffic. I thought there was a local ordinance that specified property owners/residents where there were sidewalks adjacent to have them cleared out for pedestrian usage by now.

    I know this past weekend's storm was a special case as far as what came about, but people should realize that we live in an area that is either "feast or famine" when it comes to our current meteorological climate region. Norristown officials should be expected to know what happens in the time period from Nov through March. Plus, there was at least a week's worth of advance warning. Is it too much to ask for a standing "snow emergency plan" to be at least documented in case of events like this?

    For now, I appreciated the time off on Monday, but the recovery effort for this seems "ad hoc" at best...

    1. Clearing sidewalks is the responsibility of homeowners (except, of course, on Municipal properties). You can report unshoveled sidewalks to Municipal Hall.

      Again, there was NOT a full week's notice of this blizzard. At the beginning of the week, they were saying possible snow. It wasn't until Wednesday that the National Weather Service said blizzard and then predicted 9-18 inches for Norristown. On Friday morning, they upped it to 11-21 inches. Never did ANY news outlet call for anywhere near 30 inches. In the meantime, Norristown is without a Public Works Director (for the simple reason that things like snow removal and other jobs weren't getting done in the past year). If you want to apply and be in charge next time, here's your chance.

      SEPTA makes their own decisions about routes. Norristown can't control that.

  6. Greetings, all. On Friday Jan 22nd at about 10:30pm I drove home from my second job after giving an associate a lift into Bridgeport. Egypt Rd in Oaks was terrible by Rt 422, very slippery slush. Ridge Pike was better closer into town, likely due to heavy traffic, and 202 southbound wasn't bad. 202 in Bridgeport was still passable but the sidestreets were already nearly too deep for driving in a passenger car. I was very concerned about what I would find in Norristown, only to find, to my great relief and after a much longer than usual and nail-biting drive into the borough, that someone did a really great job plowing New Hope St near Curren Terrace, and the street was safe to drive on, a broadway. Cannot tell you what a sweet sight that was to discover. Nice job out there, someone!! (hopefully by now East Marshall St heading up to the intersection at Airy/Sandy Hill is more open than one way driving).
    Signed, Tori Ann Hickox