Snow’s wonderful — at least as it’s falling

December 27, 2018

Almost everyone loves a little snow — until it sticks to the roads, ices streets and closes the freeway.

Then, it’s a disaster.

Welcome to Northern New Mexico on Wednesday morning, when a “snow squall” — the National Weather Service’s term for a 2-inch, mid-morning dump — pounded Santa Fe and created trouble for motorists throughout the area.

The test, of course, comes after the snow arrives. And that’s what we’ll be watching from government agencies charged with the thankless and often difficult chore of making sure travel is as safe as possible.

Santa Fe has had challenges with this task in the past. One issue is that several roads in the city are maintained by the state Department of Transportation. As difficult as it is for us to believe, the state might be more interested in clearing La Bajada or Interstate 25 near Pecos than taking care of St. Michael’s Drive, as awful as that road can be in bad weather.

Either way, it’s clear the freeway is a safety issue in bad weather: During Wednesday’s storm, I-25 was shut down near Santo Domingo Pueblo for several hours.

Wednesday’s storm is another reminder that city and state officials need to hammer out seamless coordination through which state roads in city limits get cleared, even if state workers are busy. City workers could do the work, with Santa Fe being repaid, for example; private contractors could be hired, if necessary.

The agreement doesn’t even have to work for every snowstorm; should the bad weather be isolated to Santa Fe, state crews might not be out and about and can take care of business here without city help. Otherwise, work cooperatively so that roads in the state’s capital city aren’t an embarrassment.

Santa Fe County, too, has to do its share on county roads both in rural areas and abutting the city — when school is in session, bad roads in the hinterlands often are the reason for snow delays or cancellations. Business does not have to stop just because of snow; or at least, it should not.

And lest individuals think they are absolved from responsibility, let’s be clear — all of us have a role when it snows or a freezing rain falls. Homeowners. Business owners. Governments, regardless of whether state, city or county, must also be part of the solution, removing ice and snow on their properties as quickly and safely as possible.

As beautiful as a snowfall is, the cleanup is really the crucible. And for a city in the high mountains, Santa Fe seldom has been particularly good at handling snow. It’s time to commit to being better.

And guess what? The opportunity will again present itself soon. Forecasters expect more snow in a few days, this time accompanied by dangerous, freezing cold. It’s be a great chance to see whether government and those of us who pay the bills for government are cleaning up snow and ice.

Surprises tend to leave Santa Fe helpless. Wednesday’s storm was predicted and landed during work hours. We may not be so lucky next time.

Bottom line: Let’s get to work.

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