Is there a better way for cities to deal with snow?

Dec. 11, 2019 | G. Michael Dobbs

Sometimes I think I should have a standard reusable column designed to be published to accompany the first significant snowstorm of the season.

It seems to me that everyone essentially experiences the same things over and over, and makes the same comments over and over.

It’s not unlike the movie “Groundhog Day.”

Think about it for a moment. We do the same things in almost every storm.

From paying attention to the weather forecasts to preparing for the storm by buying food, gasoline and ice melter, to our commentary about whether or not out communities have done a good job clearing the streets.

It tends to be the same conversation and few things seem to change.

Is it wrong to expect change?

Well, I’d like to think we could develop some systems to better cope with a storm.

For instance, is there a way to prevent a huge pile of snow blocking sidewalks at the intersection of two streets?

At many locations I noticed that plows pushed the snow in such a way to clear a street but to create five-foot-tall glacier at the end of the sidewalk. Property owners must then deal with removing the blockage.

Is there a way to better treat streets, especially hills?

Is there a better way to plow streets so driveways and sidewalks are not continually filled back in by every plow that comes by?

I suppose that we have to first acknowledge cities such as ours – Springfield, Westfield, Chicopee and Holyoke – were never designed for automobiles and never designed to consider where snow should go during removal efforts.

We hear a lot about city planning today but let’s face it, old cities such as ours grew in a far more organic and erratic manner. People in the 18th and 19th centuries did not have cars, did not have snowplows and had other worries about winter–such as surviving it.

As cities grew and evolved, the ability to cope with a foot of snow changed. I’m sure folks from 1919 would greatly appreciate the fact there is municipal plowing of the streets in the manner we have today.

The question is about making improvements. What should we do?

I don’t have to answer for that question or the others I posed. I’m sure there are smarter people who do have ideas. We need to hear them.

If we don’t consider new strategies, we will repeat our winter conversations, just like “Groundhog Day.”

Wish books

It is the season of receiving catalogs, at least for me. I realize that in this digital age, the idea of a paper catalog being delivered by the postal service might strike some as old-fashioned to say the least.

Perhaps because of my age, I find their arrival somewhat comforting.

What always amazes me is the fact that I’ve not ordered anything for years from a number of the companies that send the catalogs but in an act of faith – and I’m sure statistics – they keep giving me one.

I regularly receive catalogs from a cigar company as well as a pocketknife retailer, but now I get catalogs from places such as The Vermont Country Store, Swiss Colony and Hammacher Schlemmer, among others.

I always look through them and the exercise is definitely part of this season. It brings me back to childhood when mail order, as we called it then, was a very popular business model and for many people was a major way they shopped. Catalogs representing a dizzying array of businesses were part of most homes.

Yes, I understand that Amazon and other online retailers are the 21st Century version of the catalog business. There is, perhaps, something more personal and leisurely about leafing through a catalog than staring at a screen.

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