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Better planning required for winter storm response

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Hailing from the beautiful outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio, I’ve pretty much been raised to dislike and oppose all things Pittsburgh. From the sports teams to the rivers that, as far as I know, have never been on fire (lame), there seems to be nothing in this wreck of a city that I can like. So when the recent blizzard-esque storm wreaked havoc around town this past week, I just knew something would come out of it that would have me despising the city of Pittsburgh more than ever.

Now, at this point in my time here at Carnegie Mellon, I have experienced Pittsburgh winters three times, and the first two were nothing I had not seen before. I did notice last year, however, that Pittsburgh seemed to care little about its immediate suburbs — you know, where many of its residents live — and maintaining safe driving and walking conditions in those areas. But for the most part it wasn’t too bad, and I attributed some of the awful conditions near the road to college students who don’t shovel the sidewalks in front of their houses on Beeler and in other residences near campus.

Then last week happened, and the crazy-meter shot through the roof with school being canceled, cars getting stuck in the middle of the road, and the hilarious antics of people attempting to get up the hill near Forbes and Morewood. As someone who drives in Pittsburgh now, the conditions of late are worse than any I have experienced in my life. The main question I keep hearing asked by myself and others is simply, “What was the city thinking this whole time?” It was clear that a storm was coming and double-digit inches of snow were expected. Yet the lack of plows around town was astonishing. I even talked to one of the half-dozen plow operators I saw who told me, “I’m not a professional; I really don’t know what I’m doing, just trying to get snow off the road.” And while it is sometimes that simple, how is it that a city that routinely experiences snow for multiple months out of the year does not have a veritable fleet of plows, not to mention an organized plan for which locations are most important to keep cleared?

And do not think for a second that Pittsburgh deserves less blame due to the magnitude of the snowfall, because exactly two years ago, on Feb. 16, 2008, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a press conference that he was disappointed in the snow removal job done by the city, vowed to inventory public works vehicles, and overall to do a better job of removing snow and ice from the streets. And just look at that, a vow from a politician who had two full years to do anything he proposed at the time, including putting plows on garbage trucks and other city machinery, and yet failed at every single possible avenue. Instead, the mayor spent his time trying to get a little extra dough from us students, who clearly are not pulling our weight in this city. I guess we should have shoveled our sidewalks more.