Snow Palooza

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Department of Public Works is using new ways to prepare for colder weather and the challenges that come along with it.

The first ever, "Snow Palooza" Thursday gave Columbia residents the opportunity to meet the drivers that plow their roads and get a close-up look at the equipment that clears the way for winter travel.

Columbia Public Works Public Information Officer Barry Dalton believes giving citizens an opportunity to check out the equipment and interact with the employees who operate it will make people more patient when harsh weather hits.

"We're here to help everyone understand that we are here to help," Dalton said. "We all share these roads together, we just want to make sure that everyone is safe."

Dalton said, through events like "Snow Palooza," Columbia resident will know what to expect.

"It's all about constant communication," Dalton said. "Columbia is a constant revolving door, we have people here that have most likely never encountered snow before. Events like this demonstrate the lengths were willing to go through to keep these roads safe."

Winters in Columbia vary greatly from year to year, from large snow totals and bitterly cold winds to above average temperatures with no snow at all. For that reason, Dalton said, the city must always be prepared.

"It's a mixed bag," Dalton said. "We plan for the worst and hope for the best. It's all we can do."

Public works has stockpiled 5,000 tons of salt. The department's street division drivers are responsible for keeping the city's roughly 1,300 miles of road free of snow and safe.

Jake Elder drives one of the 22 snow plows. He said he has to stay flexible.

"You never know what mother nature is going to throw at you," Elder said. "It could be sunny one day and a blizzard the next. That's Missouri for you."

Public works hopes to hold its "Snow Palooza" annually to help educate Columbia residents on the dangers of winter travel.

When the weather turns icy or snowy, public works posts updates on its website.