Snow could stick around a while as crews work to clear major Memphis streets

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Drivers can expect major thoroughfares in Memphis to be clear by Sunday, but residential streets likely won’t be treated, Public Works Director Robert Knecht said Thursday.

Two snowfalls this week dumped a total of 10 to 12 inches of snow, Knecht said, which presented a significant challenge for city crews tasked with snow and ice removal.

Memphis crews have been working 16-18 hours a day to clear snow from roads using 12 to 14 plows, with six contractor snowplows working. Another snowplow will be working by Friday, Knecht said.

Record daily snowfall recorded in parts of Memphis and Mid-South

They’ll be working another day or so to clear snow from major thoroughfares, their top priority, before getting to secondary roads.

“It will be difficult to get beyond major roadways. It will take at least another day or two to hit the major thoroughfares again,” he said. “I don’t believe we’ll have an opportunity to do anything on residential streets.”

Knecht said by the time crews could get to residential streets, the warm weather and sun forecast for this weekend likely would help do the work on those streets.

Memphis crews say they have 16 trucks laying sand, six laying brine and 14 plows. They are focusing on major thoroughfares, and areas around hospitals, police and fire precincts. 

So far about 450 miles of street have been plowed since Sunday afternoon. City crews don’t have the capacity to treat all 6,000 lane miles of streets in Memphis.

TDOT, which maintains U.S. 385 and state routes within the city, has given priority to state routes near critical infrastructure like hospitals, Knecht said. The state and city are coordinating their efforts.

The city planned for this event and received extra salt in advance. But Knecht said the extreme cold has hindered the city’s ability to respond. He said the temperature made salt less effective, and major snow events just don’t happen in the area that often, leaving the city to depend on contractors to augment its snowplow fleet.

“It’s been since the 1960s at least since we’ve seen something of this magnitude,” he said.

On Thursday, our crews saw snowplows working on East Parkway, Poplar and Sam Cooper and they were reported in Whitehaven and in southern parts of the city.

Most plowing operations cut off by 11 p.m. for safety reasons and resume first thing in the morning.

After this week, Knecht said his crews’ priority will shift to potholes.

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