City workers apparently cleared streets as promised during a recent storm that dumped several inches of snow and caused dozens of injury accidents, a geographic analysis by The Oklahoman shows. Trucks equipped with snow plows and rock salt repeatedly moved along planned emergency snow routes, data show. A majority of Oklahoma City residents — at least 450,000 of the more than 500,000 counted for the 2000 census — live within a mile of where city trucks traveled, the analysis shows. It did not include hundreds of thousands of people living in other cities throughout the metro area, which had more than 1 million people during the 2000 census. "People were happy with our efforts for the most part,” City Manager Jim Couch said. "Of course, some always aren't.” The analysis by The Oklahoman included data generated by 17 city dump trucks, which carry devices that record location and movement using global positioning satellites. The data was combined with population totals by the U.S. Census Bureau and analyzed using mapping software. City officials were unable to provide data from seven smaller tracker-equipped trucks, saying the units didn't store data from the storm. The seven affected trucks were smaller, carrying half the amount of sand as others used during the storm and weren't equipped with plows. Workers logged 4,700 man hours and dumped 4,000 tons of rock salt that included 1,200 gallons of a magnesium chloride additive, said Mike DeGiacomo, streets superintendent for Oklahoma City. The storm cost taxpayers about $254,000, though overtime expenses haven't been calculated. "It's not a matter of cost,” Couch said. "Citizens need to rely upon those routes during winter events.” The storm dropped about 4½ inches of snow in Oklahoma City, though local amounts varied, said Erin Maxwell, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Precipitation fell as showers and thunderstorms first on Nov. 29, and then turned into freezing rain before falling as snow mid-morning on Nov. 30. Oklahoma City police worked 31 injury accidents during the storm. Data show the wrecks occurred both on and off snow routes, which are evaluated every year for traffic flow, DeGiacomo said. As with all winter storms, Oklahoma City police responded only to injury accidents. "It causes more of a threat to police officers and the public just to be out there to respond to those minor wrecks,” Oklahoma City police Sgt. Paco Balderrama said. "It takes every single man and woman we have out there just to handle it.” There are 1,000 lane miles of snow routes within the city limits. Most are along major arterial roads that carry more than 10,000 cars a day, according to city traffic data. "We've got a significant amount of resources, but we also have an overwhelming amount of roads to clear,” Couch said. DeGiacomo said snow routes are revised every year to accommodate changes in traffic. The goal is to make sure every citizen is within at least a mile of a route, he said. By next year, three additional city trucks will be equipped with snow plows. The trucks now depart from the city maintenance yard at SW 15 and Portland Avenue, but they also will depart from another yard next year near NW 122 and Santa Fe Avenue. DeGiacamo said the two departure locations will help crews plow the roads quicker. He also said buying more trucks would make winter storm crews more efficient, but it's not cheap. The double-axle dump trucks cost more than $100,000 each when equipped with a plow and salt spreader.
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