City manager: Va. Beach may consider adding more plows if snow storms increase

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia Beach might consider increasing their investment in snow removal assets if there is an increase in winter storms, City Manager Dave Hansen said in an email to city council Sunday afternoon.

"Should we see climate change increase the frequency and intensity of these unique winter weather events we may wish to consider increasing our public investment in snow removal assets.  We will look at what additional plow assets could be adapted to our existing fleet," Hansen wrote.

The email comes after a large winter storm hit Hampton Roads Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Days later, roads are still icy and have been causing problems for drivers.

Crews have been working around the clock to make roads safer for commuters, but many secondary streets still haven't turned to slush, despite the warmer weather.

After schools were cancelled yet again due to road conditions, the Virginia Beach City Council met Tuesday evening to address how the city government and local public works departments plan to handle weather problems in the future.

"It’s been a long week and we actually started treating the roads last Wednesday afternoon when it was apparent the storm was going to hit," said Drew Lankford of Virginia Beach Public Works. "Ever since then, we’ve been on 12-hour shifts with 25 crews out every day."

He said to get all the streets cleared of snow immediately after a snow event, it would take between 300-350 plows, which might be a little too ambitious considering the rarity of storms of this magnitude.

"That’s just not feasible for this area. That might be the only snowstorm we get this year, it might not be. We’ve had some years we’ve gotten no snow and then some years where we had rough storms," Lankford said.

Each truck with a plow blade and spreader could cost anywhere between $1000,000-$125,000. The total cost is estimated to be somewhere near $30 million at the least - and that doesn't include salaries, training or benefits.

Virginia Beach City Deputy Manager Tom Leahy said the plan could take a couple months to put together, and that if the city were to purchase more equipment, that money may have to come from somewhere else in the budget.

"As part of our budget process this year, we are preparing a report that will inform the city council and our public as to what we’ve done historically, what it has cost us, what type of equipment we have and if we wanted to expand that, what type of things that would cost," Leahy said. "And with the consequences of that would be both financially and in terms of other issues."

Mayor Kenneth Alexander of Norfolk, Mayor Will Sessoms of Virginia Beach, Mayor Rick West of Chesapeake, and Mayor John Rowe of Portsmouth provided a joint statement on Sunday, saying they appreciate everyone's patience as crews work to clear the roads.