After a snow or ice storm, some of the best information about which streets need to be treated comes from sanitation crews, says Steve Kondrosky, McKeesport's public works director.
"Every day, somewhere in the city is trash collection day," he says, and crews from the city's garbage collection contractor, Big's Sanitation, will alert the public works department if a street or alley needs attention.
City police, too, serve as the eyes and ears to report snowy or icy streets --- and there has been plenty to report.
"The weather has not been very kind to us this year," McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko says.
According to the National Weather Service in Moon Twp., ice or snow have fallen on the Pittsburgh area eight out of the last 10 days. The region, which averages less than 12 inches of snow every January, had more than 17 inches this year.
So far this winter, McKeesport crews have used about 4,500 tons of rock salt to de-ice roads, Cherepko says. During an average year, they use 3,000 tons per winter, and last year, they used about 1,500 to 2,000 tons.
"We're over double last year's amount, and we still have a month of winter yet to go," he says.
In March 2014, during a shortage of road salt across the United States, McKeesport ran out. Kondrosky says the city now has a second salt storage bin, and during winter it fills each bin twice.
"We are not taking short cuts and we're not trying to 'conserve' it," Cherepko says. "We are not holding anything back." Some salt truck drivers are working two eight-hour shifts in a row, going home for rest, and then going back out again, he says.
Cherepko says city crews prioritize hills and main arteries for extra attention during a snow or ice storm.
"If your road is flat, you may come out and find not all of the snow is melted," he says, but public works crews do try to treat every street in McKeesport at least once during their first pass.
"I think sometimes we have unrealistic expectations that after a snow, your road is just going to be wet," Cherepko says. "We are living in Western Pennsylvania."
Kondrosky says residents who want to report a dangerous street may call his office at (412) 675-5020, ext. 631, or the mayor's office at ext. 605.
In reality, Kondrosky says relatively few complaints have been received, and of those city hall has gotten, "we address them immediately."
Despite the long hours for public works crews, he says, "the nicest thing is, even though the conditions are terrible, you feel good about going out and helping people."
Originally published February 08, 2018.