Ogle highway department fighting through first wave of winter storm while bracing for more

Two vehicles can barely be seen as they traverse Pines Road, west of Oregon, as snow Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. More snow was forecast throughout the region for the rest of the day and into Saturday.

OREGON – If you’ve been having trouble keeping your driveway clear of snow, imagine having 270 miles of it to worry about.

That’s how many miles of roads the Ogle County Highway Department is responsible for clearing when Mother Nature drops her fluffy white stuff.

“We are encouraging everyone to stay off the roads if they can,” said Ogle County Highway Engineer Jeremy Ciesiel on Friday. “It just keeps snowing. As soon as we get a road clear it gets covered again.”

Ciesel was out checking the roads at 6 a.m. Friday after the department’s trucks started plowing at 3:30 a.m.

“This morning it was drifting and the visibility was terrible,” he said. “And when then winds pick back up tonight it will drift again.”

The department has 10 plow trucks, two one-on trucks, and two motor graders at their disposal. Drivers hit the road at 3:30 a.m. and end their shifts at 6 p.m.

“We only have one shift,” Ciesel said. “We will pull the plows off at 6 p.m. tonight and they will start again at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow. They need to get some rest.”

Longtime employee Dave Boehle was busy Friday afternoon at the highway department south of Oregon filling his truck’s auxiliary fuel tank before heading out to refuel the larger plow trucks.

Boehle, who manages the plow drivers for the department, refuels the trucks working closer to Oregon while other trucks plowing further out from the county refill elsewhere.

The trucks can run about 8 hours on 65 gallons of fuel, Boehle said.

Ciesiel reminds motorists that even small amounts of snow can make driving challenging, especially in rural areas.

“Drifting from blowing snow tends to be patchy,” he said. “Long stretches of clean pavement can lead to a false sense of security. It can be clear and then all of a sudden there’s a drift.”

He urged motorists to slow down and allow for more time and space to bring their vehicle to a stop. He also asks for motorists to be patient with those working to remove the snow and ice from the roadways and to never follow a plow closely.

“They are spreading salt and ice abrasives. It is also wise to slow down when passing a plow in the opposite direction,” he said.

And don’t venture out unless you absolutely have to.

“If you don’t need to travel, please stay off the roadways,” he said.

Forecasters were calling for continued snow and high winds that could result in blizzard-like conditions through Friday evening and into Saturday.

Ogle County Highway employee Dave Boehle fills a fuel supply on his truck before heading out to refuel plow trucks on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.
Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.