I was telling my mom the other day about how strange it was that Pittsburgh is all but closed down after the snowstorm on Saturday.  Even the major roads (5th, Forbes, Negley, Penn) are not plowed, or rather, seem to have been plowed after one foot of snow fell, but then they didn't come around again for the next six to twelve inches.

We drove down on Sunday to shovel our rented parking spaces for our renters and it was quite odd that the roads were less and less plowed the closer we got to the city.  I suppose one could make the argument that the suburbs have more money available, but not all of the suburbs are ritzy, so I wouldn't think that argument would hold up to scrutiny.  Though I expected the small side street to not be plowed (I'm not exactly sure how one would plow it, since there isn't much place to put the snow, and the road is so narrow, I'm not sure if a plow could fit down it all that well anyway) I did expect the biggest roads in the city to be plowed.  I am not sure what the city is thinking - maybe just that it will melt in the next month or so, so might as well not send out the plows just yet.

I also thought it was funny how many people thought we were crazy to drive down to the city in such bad conditions, etc. to take care of the driveway (I was also going with some people to Bellefield for a meeting about our upcoming mission trip to the Dominican Republic), so the trip wasn't entirely to shovel, though I had considered going down the day before just to shovel (and to follow the Pittsburgh law about shoveling the sidewalks within 24 hours of a storm), but I decided that if Pittsburgh wasn't plowing, then they certainly wouldn't expect their residents to shovel either.

Anyway, mom and I were laughing about how poorly they take care of snow, and how much people aren't used to snow, etc. when mom recounted a story from when her youth group was in Wyoming, and her kids were telling a girl about school getting cancelled for snow, and she was dumbstruck that one would cancel school, "I mean, we might get three feet or something, but why would you cancel school?"  Even I, Mr. NH, considers three feet to be quite a storm.

The rumors and/or cynics would say that Pittsburgh's problem is all about corruption, and it does make one wonder what they do with all of the money - we just did our taxes, and I always like to compare the current year's return to the last one to see if there are any big changes - and make sure any changes make sense. The local taxes were way down - and Heather figured it out first - that Pittsburgh's tax rate is triple the rate where we now live, so it made sense - but it got me thinking about where the money is being spent.

I happened to wake up during the snowstorm (3AM), and I saw that the plows had been by once, but they would probably be coming by again shortly, so I went out and shoveled the end of the driveway, pushing the snow to the right side, etc. so the plow would do a bunch of the work for me, and while I was out, the township plow came by - not plowing, but apparently just checking things out or something.  And then was back within a couple hours to finish the job.  And since the snow stopped on Saturday morning, the roads have been clear since then (the temperatures rose to 30ish or so on Saturday, and the sun melted the thin layer that was left).  Contrast that to Pittsburgh, where they decided not to plow, and we were driving in probably 4 inches of packed snow on all of the roads, and more snow is expected today and tomorrow, so it'll be the same thing all over again.

I do realize that there are some "real" problems caused by the storm - trees and power lines down, but I don't consider the snow itself that much of a problem.  Anyone know any reasons why Pittsburgh doesn't plow?  I looked around in the papers a little, but I didn't see anything.

Posted by Jon Daley on February 9, 2010, 10:45 am | Read 4540 times
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Part of it is due to Linda's Law of Preparedness: Every city is prepared to handle the weather commonly experienced one zone further south. Apparently people object if their taxes pay to cover weather events that don't happen very often. Orlando is now well prepared to handle a hurricane, but as the memory of 2004 dims, I expect we will start to slip...until the next hurricane wakes us up again.

There's much more to it than that, of course. You must take into account local needs, local culture, and local corruption.

And there's one other factor that I haven't figured out how to account for, when considering how money is spent. Some places seem to do a very similar job for vastly less than others. When we moved to Florida, the per-pupil annual expenditure in the public schools was about $3000. The figure for that year from my demographically similar alma mater school district was about $11,000. I can't say for sure whether or not one school system was a little better or worse than the other, but I can say with absolute certainty that the difference was nowhere near worth $8,000.

Posted by SursumCorda on February 9, 2010, 12:44 pm

According to the news, radio and TV, part of the problem is Pittsburgh was preparing for 4-8 inches, not 20+. Pittsburgh Public Works didn't have the man power available to plow 20 inches of snow out of the city and spent the majority of Saturday plowing out for emergency vehicles and people who called in with real emergencies and needed to get out of their home. So, they got behind and until they started hiring contractors and using Penn DOt to help, they can't really get anywhere. This is their "excuse", but it makes you wonder when like you said most municipalities were able to manage the storm within a reasonable time frame. Add on top of that the fact that the mayor was up in seven springs for a birthday bash when he knew the storm was on it's way instead here in the city, getting workers ready. The city was totally unprepared and I don't think there is much excuse considering the amount of taxes people pay there. I am sure glad I live in Shaler, where our roads were also cleared by Sat. and they have been coming everyday just to wane it back even more and make the roads broader.

Posted by Bonnie Walker on February 9, 2010, 3:12 pm

I did see the one article about city leaders being out of the city, but I always wonder when reports come up like that, how much does it matter if the mayor (or president) is physically in the location where the issues are taking place - he isn't going to be driving a snow plow.

My friend who correctly predicted the amount of snow fall was quite happy as she saw the local weathermen slowly starting to predict more and more snow as the storm got closer.

I can understand Pittsburgh not being ready for snow on the day of the storm, but I'd think if you have the plows driving 24 hours a day, you'd be done in a day or something, certainly to the point where the main streets are cleared.

I just got the e-mail from Ascension about services being cancelled for tomorrow - I always remember Doug saying that whatever the weather, or hurricanes, or the sanctuary collapsing, he'd be there celebrating the Eucharist... :)

Posted by jondaley on February 9, 2010, 3:16 pm

ha ha! yes, I remember Doug saying that too and I was shocked when services were canceled Sunday! Also someone told me that the city only has 19 snow plow vehicles. I don't know if this is true or not, but you would think with a storm coming, they would prepare by contracting more plows ahead of time. But I guess they weren't expecting as much as we got, so that is their explanation.

Posted by Bonnie Walker on February 9, 2010, 6:38 pm

when we first visited pittsburgh in 2004 to discern our first placement with intervarsity, there was a "big" snowstorm. it was 6 - 8". being michiganders, we found it completely odd that nothing was plowed after 24 hours, and jason could go cross country skiing with our hosts down the middle of major city streets (highland park/east liberty), a day after the storm.

the good news is that pittsburgh rarely gets snow accumulation, so it's not often an issue. except when it is...

Posted by serina on February 9, 2010, 8:50 pm
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