My Plowing Manifest-Snow

By Charlie Gstalder, Opinions & Editorials Page Editor

Cincinnati just doesn’t understand snow. 

I originally wrote this opinion piece last March as a response to our trifecta of February snow days — real snow days without asynchronous classes — that were a result of a three to four inches of snow at a maximum. And yet, that seemingly – insignificant amount drove the campus and the majority of Cincinnati to a freezing halt. 

Last week, the area experienced a significantly stronger storm: one that dumped a combination of precipitation, a wintry mix of rain, freezing rain, snow and sleet. Once again, Cincinnati froze and campus was closed. These storms are part of a larger trend.

Spectrum News One reported that last February’s 21.9 inches of snow made it the second-snowiest February Cincinnati has ever seen. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that within the past 20 years, six of the 10 snowiest Februarys occurred this decade.

The increase in snowfall is not limited to Cincinnati. Last year, Texas saw a nearly-unprecedented amount of snow dumped on the state, resulting in a power-based emergency.

There is no reason to believe that this uptick in precipitation is an anomaly. 

Don’t get me wrong; I love snow, and I love snow days (or any reason to cancel class), but I don’t understand how it happened.   

I’m from the Northeast where snow is much more common, or rather, where greater amounts of it fall more regularly. And yet, it takes an absurd amount of precipitation — what Cincinnati experienced last week at a minimum — to cancel schools. This is due largely to extensive preparedness and a fleet of plows ready to mobilize at first flake. Now I’m not saying that Cincinnati and Norwood need to invest in an identical system, but change needs to be made.

During the latest storm, precipitation fell from Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning. The road that my house is on is designated as a secondary road by the City of Cincinnati’s 2021-2022 Snow and Ice Control Plan. However, not a single plow drove down my street until Sunday afternoon. When a plow finally came, it didn’t plow. It only salted. It just poured road salt onto the inches of snow and ice that still caked my street like stale fondant. The result was two deep tire tracks of clear asphalt and an icy mess everywhere else. 

The snow and ice remained until the editing of this article, Wednesday night, exactly one week after the storm first hit. The result of this failure to keep our roadways clear is a breakdown of public and private transportation and the unnecessary shutdown of a major metropolitan area.

As my colleague Grady Boris wrote in his opinion piece on this topic, the answer is a simple one. We need more plows. I believe that the burden of this increase in plow-ability can be shouldered across multiple spheres of life. While the cities of Cincinnati and Norwood could and should purchase more snowplows, the greatest immediate local benefit can be felt through actions by private citizens and Xavier. 

A quality snow plow costs around three to four thousand dollars, but once purchased can be attached to nearly any pickup truck. Considering how many people who live around here already own pickups, one would simply need to buy and attach a plow to begin clearing their neighborhood. Granted, for a private resident, this is not an insignificant cost. However, the cost can be offset through a small business of clearing neighbors’ driveways or a system of refunds organized by local governments.

The most feasible solution is likely for Xavier’s Physical Plant department to purchase a few snow plows for their own fleet of pickup trucks. With these plows, the university could help keep the surrounding roads clear, ensuring that students have access to safe roadways, regardless of whether they live on campus.