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Dry Winter Has Saved Clawson, Oakland County Money

Local road departments have spent less on salt and overtime this season, but that could change soon with snow in the forecast.

If you were hoping for a snow-free January, hope again. Old Man Winter is on his way after all.

On Thursday, rain is expected to change over to a mix of rain and snow as temperatures fall from a high near 42 degrees to just above freezing by late afternoon, according to the National Weather Service in Detroit/Pontiac.

The mix will then change to all snow after 10 p.m. Snow accumulation of around an inch is possible overnight, and winds will pick up to 7-15 mph with gusts as high as 18 mph.

Friday will be much cooler with a high near 33 and a low around 18. Winds will continue between 15-17 mph with gusts as high as 28 mph, and additional snow accumulation of 1-3 inches is possible.

Not your average winter

It has been an unusually quiet winter so far. The region has received about 0.4 inches of snowfall in January, compared to 8.3 inches at this time last year, according to the National Weather Service.

The average annual winter snowfall in Metro Detroit is 43 inches.

"The driving factor is an eastward extension of the jet stream over the western Pacific," said Joseph Clark, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in White Lake. "It looks like it won’t be enough to totally change this warm weather pattern, but it looks to change things quite a bit. We’re going to take it up a notch to something more normal."

The below-average snowfall has saved local road commissions and public works departments money. 

Clawson Department of Public Works Director Harry Drinkwine said the department has about 300 tons of salt in storage, which it normally has to replenish three to five times each winter. This year, it hasn't had to purchase any more salt, which has saved at least $14,000 — the cost per 300 tons. Drinkwine said he's only had to send the plow and salt trucks out twice this season.

"That in itself is a savings, in addition to the fact that we have not had to pay out any overtime," Drinkwine said.

The Road Commission of Oakland County has saved money on salt also, but it isn't counting its chickens before they hatch, so to speak.

"We have spent less money on salt so far this year ... on salt truck driver overtime by about half what we normally spend and in salt by about a third," said Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Road Commission of Oakland County. "It’s still fairly early in the winter, and we’re not ready to assume there will be that kind of savings for the year."

Jen Anesi and Tim Rath contributed to this report.

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