But for some, icy roads sent business through the roof.
“We had all we could handle for about 20 hours a day,” said owner Kent Kilroy of Kilroy’s Towing.
Most common were calls from people sliding off their driveways, especially on the steep slopes in Alta Sierra, he said.
And when accidents did happen, auto body shops got the calls.
“We’ve had a lot of tow-ins and cars buried in the snow for a day,” said Nancy Maldonado, an estimator at Chris’ Collision Repair in Grass Valley.
The shop’s staff has seen the big accidents in the past few days, but is expecting business to stay steady — most people who had minor fender benders won’t bring the cars in until the roads improve.
Tuesday saw “lots of spinouts in the snow and ice, but nothing major,” said CHP Officer Eric Wagner. While the highways were clear Wednesday, many of the side roads still were problematic, with patches of black ice, said CHP spokeswoman Heather Blancarte.
“People are still driving way too fast,” she said. “Increase your distance and slow down.”
The county’s schools reopened Wednesday, despite the icy conditions. Many buses ran late Wednesday morning, leaving some students complaining about their wait in the bitter cold and some parents frustrated at the delays.
“It was slow going,” said Durham School Services operations supervisor Bill Locke. “There were some roads we couldn’t get down, but the county did a good job of sanding. We were running about a half-hour to 45 minutes behind on most routes.”
Some roads in the Wolf Creek and Dog Bar areas were covered in 6 to 8 inches of ice, with Cascade Shores being another problem area, Locke said. Communication problems between dispatch and bus drivers are typical for the more mountainous areas of the county where reception is spotty, he added.
“As ugly as it could have been, it was a pretty good day,” Locke said.
The emergency room at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and the waiting room at Yuba Docs in Grass Valley saw a jump in injuries due to people slipping on the ice.
Between 25 percent and 30 percent of emergency room patients seen Tuesday had injured themselves in a fall, hospital staff reported. At Yuba Docs, staff saw more “bumps on the head” and even some fractures, they said.
The cost of a cold snap
It costs about half a million dollars annually to remove snow on western Nevada County roads, plus about $250,000 to maintain county roads near Truckee, according to Nevada County Public Works Director Doug Farrell.
The county employs a road maintenance crew of 30 and assigns them into two 12-hour shifts for around-the-clock snow removal when big storms hit.
Nevada Joint Union High School District already has used the two snow days it schedules into its annual budget. The district’s concern is possibly having to foot the bill if the winter brings more snow days.
In that case, the district will apply for a waiver from the state to avoid potentially costly make-up days.
But safety, not financial savings, comes first, Superintendent Ralf Swenson said.
“We would never let that influence our decision on whether or not we’ll have school,” he said.
Preparation pays off
B & C Hardware has been selling ice-melt products as fast as they could stock it, said Jeannie Nettles, who works in inventory control at the store. When ice melt sold out, they started selling lawn fertilizer, which warms itself, to thaw driveways and walkways.
All other seasonal merchandise has been flying off the shelves, too, Nettles said. That includes shovels, windshield de-icers, pipe insulation and lantern oil for power failures.
Hills Flat Lumber Company General Manager Jeff Pardini said a lot of people stopped in to pick up Pex Piping, a polymer pipe that doesn’t burst like metal piping. People install it where they have exposed pipes and it is getting more popular.
Customers also are picking up things like snow shovels, sand, flashlights, fire-starter logs and heat insulating tape.
“Most people are procrastinators; they didn’t come to get supplies until after (the storm),” Pardini said.
For those who didn’t wrap their pipes, Andrew Twidwell of ABT Plumbing was on call. He said he only sees freezes this bad every five to 10 years.
“We’ve got a lot of work with broken pipes, and we’re still reeling from that,” he said. “We’re doing triage — just stopping the bleeding and getting people back online.”
His advice to keep ice plugs from developing inside pipes: Leave a faucet on, and know where the water shut-off valve is to avoid a flood if a pipe does break.
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