Less snowplowing but more salting and sanding this winter in Greater Grand Forks

Feb. 12—GRAND FORKS — With the above-normal temperatures this winter, Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are moving less snow but sanding and salting a lot more.

According to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks

, temperatures in Grand Forks have been averaging almost seven degrees above normal since the beginning of October. The warmer temperatures mean more of a chance of mixed precipitation and potential for ice events,

like the ice storm that hit at the end of December.

Grand Forks also has seen less snow than last winter. Unlike last winter,

which had seen almost 31 inches of snowfall by this time

, Grand Forks has only seen 13 inches of snow since Oct. 1.

"Compared to last winter, it's a big change, because it seemed like we were always moving snow every day," Grand Forks Public Works Operations Director Sharon Lipsch said. "This winter, we're finding ourselves salting and sanding more because of the frost in the morning with the warmer temperatures."

Already this winter Grand Forks has sprayed more gallons of liquid anti-icing than it did all of last winter. Also, the city has used 2,050 cubic yards of sand so far this winter; in the last five years, the city has used an average of 2,230 cubic yards of sand for the entire winter.

Even though the city is having to treat the roads for ice more, less snow generally means equipment repairs and fuel costs are down. The milder weather has also given public works staff time to complete other projects.

"We've actually been fairly busy with other projects," East Grand Forks Public Works Director Jason Stordahl said. "Cleaning and organizing the workshop, doing some remodels like painting rooms and we had more time for our Christmas tree pickup."

Warmer temperatures mean the weather is cloudier and foggier. It also increases the chances of mixed precipitation and the potential for freezing rain, drizzle and fog. The main culprit is the ongoing El Niño in the Pacific and the jetstream keeping much of the polar air well to the north. Grand Forks broke several daily records last month for warm temperatures.

Already in February, Grand Forks has broken five daily records for the warmest daily recorded low temperatures.

With roughly a month until the spring equinox, the darkest and traditionally coldest days of winter are past. The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures will remain above normal throughout February.