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Frank Gray

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Less severe than feared
While more snow may have elicited a collective groan from Hoosiers, the northeast corner might be spared the worst. The National Weather Service in Syracuse reported that many parts of the area were seeing 2 to 4 inches of snow; a little over 2 inches was measured at Fort Wayne International Airport as of 7 p.m.
Monday night, wind that measured 30 to 40 mph in Kokomo and Marion was expected to hit here. Calmer weather is forecast today, although some gusts could reach 25 mph.
– Jeff Wiehe, The Journal Gazette
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
A driver struggles to see oncoming traffic as he peers over the massive snow piles built up by plows at Quimby Village on Monday. The problem is commonplace across the city.

Snowy mounds no relief at wheel

One of the inevitabilities of snowy winters is that here and there one will find huge mounds of snow, especially in places with large parking lots.

It’s always been like that. Even when I was a kid, plows piled up mini-mountains of snow in a nearby shopping center’s parking lot. We’d play king of the mountain. One kid would climb to the top and everyone else would try to knock him off.

It was cold but you couldn’t get hurt. Snow is soft.

Those mounds of snow are back with a vengeance this year. They’ll probably melt a lot sooner than some of us expect, but in the meantime, they’re proving to be a real headache.

The problem is that in some places, where snowplows have cleared parking lots, they’ve piled up the snow in huge mounds, 6 or 7 feet high, at the edge of the parking lots, extending all the way to the curb.

The result is that people trying to pull out of parking lots and into the street can’t see whether any cars are coming. To get a glance of what’s out there, drivers have no choice but to stick the noses of their cars into the traffic lanes, lean forward and hope that if anyone is approaching they aren’t texting and will notice you.

I’ve experienced the problem trying to get out of some parking lots. I’ve also witnessed the traffic headaches it’s caused as one lane had to stop because somebody’s car is just far enough into the lane that traffic couldn’t get by.

There are similar problems on some divided highways in town, such as Lafayette Street on the south side. Huge mounds of snow up to 20 feet wide, piled up by plows trying to clear large intersections, make it impossible for cars turning left to see whether any traffic is approaching.

It’s particularly scary when you consider that the speed limit on that road is 45 mph.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done about the problem at this point. What’s done is done. The huge mounds of snow can’t be pulled back into parking lots or pushed out of the medians.

One can’t blame plow operators. It’s been awhile since they’ve seen this much snow, if they ever have. January was the snowiest January on record, and you have to go back 34 years or more to find seasons with comparable snowfall.

Maybe, though, there’s a lesson to be learned. It’s not a good idea to push tall mounds of snow all the way to the curb. It might look nice, and it makes for great photographs, but it makes for lousy driving.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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