Boise & Garden City

Boise mayor declares state of emergency due to snow, potential flooding

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter wants the city to be ready in case rain on Sunday and Monday causes worse-than-expected flooding, spokesman Mike Journee said Thursday.

An “unprecedented accumulation of snow” spurred Bieter to declare an emergency in Boise at about 1:30 p.m., Journee said. The declaration will be in effect for seven days. It allows the city to bypass time-consuming spending procedures, such as a bidding process, that are required under normal circumstances.

Bieter could redeclare an emergency next week if the situation warrants it, Journee said. Latest National Weather Service forecasts call for some rain, though not heavy, toward the end of the weekend. That should cause no worse than incidental flooding in streets, Journee said, but the mayor wants the ability to respond quickly to any urgent scenarios.

The city has already begun contracting with operators of backhoes, dump trucks and other equipment that will be useful in clearing the 15 inches of snow the city has received, Journee said.

[Read Bieter’s declaration here.]

Meanwhile, the city of Meridian was considering borrowing or renting equipment for city staff to operate and clear snow, according to a city announcement late Thursday afternoon.

“The city has light-duty equipment for pathways and parking areas, but it is not sufficient to assist with roads,” according to the Meridian statement. “Considering available assets, priorities were set to help clear pathways with a focus on sidewalks near schools.”

The Meridian Parks and Recreation Department also was prepared to help West Ada School District clear parking lots, although schools will be closed Friday.

THE STORM

The Ada County Highway District, which has primary responsibility for maintaining public roads, said its entire fleet of 37 plow trucks, 14 de-icing vehicles and other equipment is working around the clock to clear snow from Wednesday’s massive storm, which dumped 7 inches of snow.

That’s a big effort, but in a county with 4,800 lane miles, snow removal is big job. Major roads are the priority.

The district also hired several private operators of road graders to supplement its own fleet. As of Thursday afternoon, 16 additional graders were working for the district, and crews had begun to take aim at residential routes, spokesman Craig Quintana said in an email.

Boise doesn’t normally get involved in snow removal, but these are extraordinary circumstances.

“We’re looking at what we can do,” Journee said.

Boise is working with ACHD on plans to plow more residential areas, Journee said. City crews used hand shovels to clear sidewalks in the Downtown area and along major transit routes in order to make public transportation more accessible.

Workers in several departments ran front-end loaders, bobcats, trucks with plows mounted on them and other equipment, Journee said.

The city has no estimate of how much its snow or flooding response will cost, Journee said. Boise doesn’t expect ACHD to reimburse those costs, he said.

Don’t park on Downtown streets

The city of Boise is asking residents to use parking garages instead of parking on the street so crews can continue to clear the roads. All garage fees will be waived. Some cars parked on the street Thursday had to be towed. Those who had their vehicles towed are asked to call the Ada County nonemergency dispatch at 377-6790. They will be allowed to pick up their vehicles without a fine.

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