GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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February 23, 2013

City crews ready for third weekend hit

City crews ready for third weekend hit

GLOUCESTER -- While residents stop by grocery stores this morning to grab peanut butter, milk and bread, the city’s Department of Public Works will be completing its own storm preparations — again.

Friday morning, crews equipped with chainsaws dismantled about 41 feet of the Good Harbor Beach footbridge that the Blizzard of 2013 thrashed and hacked apart at its road-connected end two weeks ago, according to Peter Dennen, the city’s supervisor of highways and public properties and a 38-year Gloucester DPW veteran.

The Public Works head mechanic is hooking up 10-foot steel plows to trucks this morning, and public workers sit at the edge of their seats for the day, and the weekend, as they prepare for another possibly sleepless weekend behind the wheel of a plow.

“It’s hard to predict Mother Nature when it comes to the ocean, because you don’t know what’s going to happen until that time,” Dennen said.

The storm, anticipated tonight and into Sunday morning, may pile another 3 to 7 inches of what meteorologists are predicting to be heavy, wet snow onto Gloucester and other areas of northeastern Massachusetts. But even 24 hours before precipitation was slated to begin, no one could be sure if we should expect snow or rain, keeping Public Works crews on their toes.

“This is gonna be one of these kind of crazy storms that you just have to watch,” Dennen said Friday. “I do rain dances all the time.”

When snow begins to fall, the police typically call over to the Public Works Department, letting Dennen know it’s time to start pre-treating the roads with a magnesium chloride mixture that can never freeze, unlike plain road salt. And, though salt and the mixture both cost more than sand, they are favored as more environmentally friendly options.

In the course of a normal snowstorm, Gloucester’s Public Works Department spews about 400 tons of the salt. That’s because Gloucester nearly tops the mileage of roadways per city in the state, with about 80 miles of public road and more miles of private roads that the city plows.

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