LEAVENWORTH – Do you have extra space? Would you like some snow? Leavenworth could be in touch.
The faux-Bavarian alpine town on the eastern slopes of the Cascades was still struggling to dig itself out on Monday after more than four feet of snow fell in less than 48 hours last week, clogging roads, closing shops and leaving them fragile Roofs shake under the weight.
Business owners and employees paddled. Neighbors offered snow blowers. The city plowed and hauled nearly 24 hours a day for four days. The National Guard arrived on Monday.
While the main roads are plowed, some smaller roads remain impassable. And if it falls 4 feet at a time, it can’t just be pushed aside. It has to go somewhere.
Next to a church, a block from the school district headquarters, a Caterpillar loader attempted to clear the street on Monday.
It staggered forward and its plow scraped the ground. The snow thickened and filled the 15 cubic meter bucket. As it pushed, its tires, around 1.5 meters in diameter, spun and hissed on the ice, fighting for traction. The snow in the shovel pushed into the snow in front of it, which pushed into even more snow, which compacted and hardened and hardened and … the 20-ton machine slipped, slipped and stopped.
The driver lifted the shovel and reversed course. He performed an elegant K-turn in the narrow alley. And he dumped the bucket, a hyperlocalized flood of snow, into the back of an idle dump truck.
A handful of reps and the dump truck trailer was full, ready to haul its frozen contents somewhere with more room.
There is too much snow in Leavenworth to simply plow the streets. It has to be transported away.
“It’s just about getting it out of our town,” said Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea, who declared a state of emergency on Friday after the record-breaking snowfall. “We basically threw it in every available open space.”
The town has a small fleet of plows, but they had to hire contractors to haul away the snow.
“We are a winter city, we know that, so we have plows that can move and remove a normal amount of snow. But when you get that much, we don’t have the equipment to remove snow, ”said Florea. “You worry about how to pay for it later. You just have to do it. “
They dumped themselves on an empty lot behind one of the city’s few traffic lights, and they used some land next to the cemetery. They put as much as possible into Safeway.
On Monday afternoon, the dump trucks were on their way to the city’s boat ramp on the banks of the Wenatchee River. The parking lot there looks like a large ice rink, surrounded by 4.5 meter high walls of snow. The dump trucks unload near these walls. Another front loader pushes the newly arrived hills. The walls rise higher. The snow falls down again.
It is necessary and sisyphean at the same time. It keeps the landfills accessible and organized. But the snow just keeps falling.
Two blocks in the other direction from the school district headquarters, four National Guardsmen swing snow shovels. They shovel and chop and chop and throw and work their way through about ten feet of what snow lovers call cascade concrete. You are trying to clear a path from the street to the front door of a house.
An elderly man contacted the city for help. “Thank you gentlemen,” he said as he watched and smoked a cigarette.
The National Guard isn’t really here to shovel. They do social checks. About two dozen soldiers go door to door, to people who have asked for help, but also only to houses that look like they could use a check-in.
You knock, ask if everyone is okay. Are the people warm, do they have enough to eat? You could be here for up to a week.
“Your main job is not to shovel driveways, but to keep people safe,” said Captain Luis Torres of the Washington Army National Guard.
Visitors flock out again on Front Street, the main drag in downtown Leavenworth. Pedestrians shuffled cautiously along the smooth sidewalk. Those trapped here over the weekend after the storm closed all of Washington’s mountain passes – for the first time in recent years – have been cleared out.
Highway 2 through Stevens Pass remained closed on Monday and crews were working on reopening on Wednesday.
Grilling sausages, children sledding, opening shops.
Kevin Winters has spent the past few days “just moving snow”. He’s a chiropractor, but he lives in a pear orchard and has a ploughshare on his Dodge Ram 2500. His country road a few miles east of town wasn’t plowed, so he took it upon himself.
At some point, however, the plow pickup lost its importance and he relied on his tractor with a snow blower attachment.
“What a plow does is it pushes,” said Winters. “But a snow blower throws it wherever you direct the shoot.”
On Monday morning he was on his way to a friend’s house to help clean up. They are on vacation. He ironically noted their target as he left.
“Anyway, I have to go to the Maui house and plow it up,” he said.
Bonnie Kinnear made the two miles from her home to her downtown gallery for the first time since Thursday. She had spent the weekend digging out her own house. Her husband, who works for the Washington State Department of Transportation, helped clear Route 2, which is still closed.
Now she was clearing the sidewalk in front of her Metal Waterfall Gallery. Then she dug up the fire hydrant next door and cleared a path between him and the street. You never know.
“It was a situation where everyone was on deck,” said Kinnear.
But on a much smaller scale, it was faced with the same problems as the city, like the plows and the front loaders.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “The snow just has nowhere to be put.”