Over the last couple of weeks, there have been several days where we’ve found ourselves anxiously awaiting the sound of a plow. The rain, sleet, snow and ice all has hit Crawford County with a fury, following what seemed to be an extremely mild December.
Finally, the ice seems to be thawing. We can take off our ice cleats for a minute, and relax as we walk down the sidewalk.
Being humans, we have the luxury of getting our food in a package, easily accessing heat and other basic needs to get us though the icy cold like we recently experienced. Our wildlife counterparts are not always so lucky.
Following a cold snap around Mother’s Day, way back in May 2016, much of the winter food crop was destroyed. Black walnuts, hickory nuts, crab apples and the like all seemed to suffer during this weather event.
Couple this with a successful and efficient crop harvest and many animals are feeling the pressure, according to local DNR Wildlife Biologist Davey Matheys.
“Going back to last May we had that frost that really hit the flowers hard, leaving no hard mast, or nut,” Matheys explained. “A very good crop harvest left no corn for turkeys or other animals to access and the triple whammy was these last three ice storms we’ve had. That thick crust of ice coupled with all of that other stuff makes life hard for a turkey or any other wildlife.”
During the bowhunting season for deer earlier in the year, Matheys responded to a report of a deer that was thought to have Chronic Wasting Disease. When Mathey’s was able to inspect the animal further, he found out that it was in fact just an incredibly old doe. “Last year, we only had a few snow falls and not much serious cold,” Matheys said. “That resulted in not as many weaker animals dying off.”
This points to the fridgid temperatures, ice, wind and snow maybe a little more in the area of normal for when it comes to natural selection.
“I don’t know how some of these animals do it during the torrential weather events,” Matheys said. “You have to think it’s just so hard out there for them.”
Matheys also noted that motorists should be more aware of animals during the winter weather.
“Right now a lot of animals, turkeys, and deer are attracted to the roadside seeking out small plants and other things that may be exposed,” the local wildlife biologist told the Independent-Scout. “And sometimes, they might not have the traction on the ice or be in the tip-top shape they need to be in to get out of the way so just be careful.”
Local motorists had a tough time getting around during all of this icy weather. However, times would be a bit tougher if it wasn’t for the road crews. Working tirelessly to keep the roads clear, their efforts have proved effective but also costly.
“Winter maintenance has cost $822,892 so far, including hours and materials,” Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pellock told the Crawford County Independent last week. “We spent $174,861 working on the storm that happened on the (January) 16, 17, and 18 alone.”
Encountering the freezing rains verses the classic wet or packing snow that is more easily cleared with a snowplow seems to have driven up the price.
“These storms have taken tons of materials to make the roads passable,” Pellock said. “I would rather have two feet of snow to clear than ice to deal with.”
Although the county has worked tirelessly throwing out sand and salt, their supplies are still well stocked.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” Pellock observed. “I know around the state some are waiting to get into the state reserves, but we still have stock.”
Local stores have been seeing their bags of salt flying out the door however.
“On Monday, I stopped at Johnson’s One Stop in Seneca and bought six bags of salt and came back a few days later and they were sold out waiting for another shipment,” Pellock said.
Following the awful icy conditions earlier in the week, as of last Friday, we were seeing a pleasant thaw, and a bit of respite for the tireless road crew workers.
“The drivers have put in a lot of hours and are getting stressed out, there’s no two ways about it,” Pellock commented. “We’re letting them use this down time to catch up on their rest and get ready for the next one.”
Pellock told the Independent-Scout that the full crew from the shop to the 24 drivers was on hand to help during the storms.
“Everyone did a great job getting in there to help fill any gaps,” Pellock said.
Only one accident involving the county workers was reported when a plow truck slid off of the road in Haney Township.
“No one was injured but we’re still waiting to find out the details of the truck,” Pellock noted. “It’s just part of our change in winter, you used to see a lot of snow and now you see a lot of ice.”
The feelings about the ice were the same at the village level as the county, as the Soldiers Grove Director of Public Work Brian Copus explained.
“It just kept coming and we were burning through a lot of materials,” he observed. “We have been mixing gravel with our sand to be a little more aggressive.”
Copus noted that the village had been out in full force to keep the roads as passable as possible. However, Mother Nature interfered at times.
“Some of the town is built on a north facing hillside, so it can be more challenging to keep clear,” Copus said. “Getting the sunshine does just as much work if not more than the salt and sand does.”
All of this weather has also proved costly for the villages and townships, according to Copus.
“You don’t really plan for this much freezing rain when you’re doing the budget,” Copus said. He told the Independent-Scout that the village went through roughly two months of materials in about one week.
On Monday, Jan. 23, just a week later, you can look out the window and proclaim spring is upon us. The mud is squishing beneath our boots and the high on Monday is supposed to peak at 41.
However, we’re not out of the woods yet, as more winter weather is predicted to land on Crawford County in the coming days.