SJC Public Works ‘lock-and-loaded’, ready for snow

The north end of San Juan Island received as much as two inches of snow late Thursday night, slowing traffic and sending county snowplows and sanders to the Roche Harbor area, where resort manager Brent Snow reportedly closed steep roads briefly until sand could be applied and roads cleared.

Other areas of San Juan Island saw less snow, and the sheriff’s department reported that other islands in the county received only light snow.

Skies were clearing by late morning. Accuweather forecast for Friday Harbor calls for 38 degrees with some sun on Saturday and 43 degrees with mixed snow and rain for Sunday.

In the wake of the massive snow problems in the Atlanta area, Frank Mulcahy, San Juan County Director of Public Works director, wants you to know he’s got you covered—even if Friday’s flurries don’t amount to much more than a minor inconvenience.

Responding early this week to a Journal inquiry, Mulcahy, like the Navy man he used to be, sent the Journal the following rundown of his plans in the event of snow and equipment Public Works has its disposal.

“We are set up for snow and ice response and our operations staff monitors weather forecasts and road conditions closely day and, when conditions warrant, night,” Mulcahy said.

Here’s Public Works’ list of priorities in response to snow, according to Mulcahy:

Priority 1: Routes that carry large volumes of essential traffic for schools, ferry transportation, emergency vehicles, and commerce. Examples include Roche Harbor Road and Beaverton Valley Road.

Priority 2: Routes that carry less traffic than Priority 1 routes, but still serve larger population areas or that may serve as alternate routes to routes that are blocked due to condition or accidents. Examples include Egg Lake Road and Boyce/Wold roads.

Priority 3: All other roads.

Public Works’ ‘toolbox’ of equipment and material to handle even a major snowstorm.

Equipment: For standard storm response, the County has six large hook-lift trucks (two trucks per main island) outfitted with both sanders and snowplows. We also have six 1-ton trucks (two per main island) with plows as well as three small sander attachments. On Shaw Island, there is a 1-ton truck with plow and sander that is sufficient. For larger storms, the county can augment with road graders and loaders as needed.

Material: The county improves traction on icy routes using applied materials on road surfaces, but is selective regarding when and where they are used for cost and environmental reasons. Problem areas like curves, intersections, and steep hills will be routinely treated when ice is a threat. The county uses basic materials like sand and rock salt as warranted. Public Works may pre-treat roads to prevent black ice or to assist with snow plowing based on weather forecasts.

Snow Route Maps can be found on the county website under the heading “Snow Routes” at: