June 03, 2023

Cherry was not on top of this snow clearing

Union County Roads Superintendent Al Hysell apologized Monday to the Union County Board of Supervisors for the difficult and disappointing work of clearing snow off of North Cherry Street after Friday’s snowstorm.

“It wasn’t terrible,” he said about the snow and work. “But it wasn’t good.”

Hysell and other county officials had heard various complaints and concerns of the road’s condition after the 7 inches of snow fell late Friday. Supervisor Rick Friday asked Hysell about the operation since the same road that extends into Adair County was in much better condition late Saturday. The road is popular to use for northern destinations, like metro-Des Moines.

“I don’t know why,” Hysell said about the difference in road conditions. “It’s usually the opposite.”

Hysell said one aspect of the storm he was not expecting, because he said he didn’t hear it in the forecast, was the lengthy amount of rain before it converted to snow.

“All you heard was snow, snow, snow. Nobody said anything about rain,” he said. As the temperature dropped and changed rain into snow, it also created ice from the wet roads. “Every snow storm is a weird animal. This time, we lost.”

Hysell said the county’s road clearing crews were on the job a little before 5 a.m. Saturday. Depending upon conditions, he said it takes about two hours for all snow plow operators to clear their designated areas. They usually travel about 15 mph. He said there were eight plows in use Saturday with three new employees.

Other parts of the county he saw had more than seven inches of snow and others had less than that amount.

Supervisors and Hysell discussed how the state of Iowa has pretreated its roads before the storm hits to make conditions better for travelers and snow-clearing staff. Union County does not have that equipment but Hysell said he is willing to research to see what would be needed for the county.

Other entities have added beet juice to their sand and salt mixture. The natural amount of sodium in beets can further delay water freezing. Traditional road salt can damage cars and the road itself.

“I’ll try something different,” Hysell said about researching ways for improvement.

“It’s always good to look at new ideas,” said Supervisor Ron Riley.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.