Lancaster County ready to tackle potential storm amid staffing, equipment shortages

10/11 NOW at 6
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 6:34 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - While the City of Lincoln is fully staffed and has all of the equipment necessary to battle the storm it’s a different story for Lancaster County.

Staff shortages and supply chain issues are leaving them with just enough resources, but as it is with any storm some things will simply be out of their control.

Lancaster County Engineers said with the preparations they’re making and with a dedicated staff they’re hoping they’ll be able to keep all 1,400 miles of Lancaster County Roads clear but it’s going to be a busy 24 hours.

The county has about 65 plows and motor graders and about 65 people to drive them.

One of those people is Brian Schwab who’s been behind the wheel of a plow for decades

“We’re making sure all our liquid tanks are full of material and salt and sand, checking maintenance on the trucks,” Schwab said.

The county is short four drivers, and two plows which they ordered over a year and a half ago, but haven’t arrived due to supply chain issues.

As a winter storm approaches, this puts extra stress on existing resources.

“Tomorrow (Thursday) morning somebody could call in sick or you know not be able to be here,” said Ron Bohaty, the Superintendent of Lancaster County Engineering. “We could have another piece of equipment break down.”

The challenges don’t stop there, the weather will make their jobs tougher too.

“People don’t often realize hey, out in the county it’s colder than it is in the city,” said Lancaster County Engineer Pam Dingman. “The city generates a lot of heat.”

The cold puts staff at risk is hard on equipment and makes materials like brine less effective. The wind can make the job dangerous and frustrating as well.

“You’ll have pretty serious whiteout conditions. Just sometimes it’s a real pain, keeping the roads clear,” Schwab said. “Once you get them plowed open, you come back on your next go around, and they’re blown back shut again.”

Because of the staffing levels, the county can only operate one shift, meaning crews will have to head home fairly early on Wednesday, so they can be back out on Thursday morning.

“To make sure we can get those roads open and keep monitoring it,” Bohaty said.

They do ask for patience from Lancaster County drivers over the next few days, but the challenges won’t stop them.

“We’re doing the best we can and that’s about all I can really say about that,” Schwab said.