The Woodward News

February 6, 2014

City crews busy during cold weather

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Picture this: It’s 14 degrees below zero wind chill and you are crouching in hole partially filled with water in the middle of a city street trying to repair a spraying water leak on a six-inch water pipe. You can’t go home even though it is dangerously cold, because homes and restaurants will be without water until you get the pipe fixed.

Yeah, it’s an ugly reality.

It’s one that City of Woodward and other regional city workers deal with every winter, said Woodward Director of Environmental Services, Ed Laird.

“A lot of people think that the city shuts down when something like this happens,” Laird said. “We still have to provide you with water, fire protection, police protection, and they can’t fight a fire with no water for the fire.”

The Woodward News caught up with Laird Wednesday as he handled multiple phone calls from department heads who were struggling to keep services going through this cold snap.

He was a little grouchy but not bad for a guy whose departments have been working some pretty long hours since early Monday morning.

“Oh, we had a water leak out there by Atwoods and it was a co-op deal since it was on the highway and so we got that asphalt cut and got in there Monday early because we wanted to get it done before snowmageddon hit,” he said.

It’s a good thing they got that project done, because Tuesday while being pelted by snow and wind, crews were out again working on another leak and that kept them out till after dark in the snowstorm, Laird said.

According to the National Weather Service of Norman, this icy, arctic front will remain in the region through Sunday, with the first chance of a warm up over freezing not predicted until Monday.

More snow could fall on Friday and Saturday and temperatures today are predicted to be negative 15 to 20 in the wind, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Wayne Ruff.

That means, if more water mains break, Laird's water department will still be on the job to make sure Woodward residents can take a warm shower.

It doesn’t stop there though, Laird said. Ice has to be dealt with at the waste facility so that system can still pull waste from sewer lines and trash can’t be allowed to pile up either so trash trucks are running, he said. Water meters must be read and roads must be cleared, salted and sanded, he said.

“The trash guys are out too and they are just taking turns on the back of the truck because you just can’t stay out there very long,” Laird says.

It’s kind of human nature to simply never think about things like water, sewer, trash until suddenly the service stops for some reason. Laird understands this.

But he wants to call attention to his “unsung heros” as he calls the city crews who work for him. He wants to shine a light on the work they do with little recognition.

“It’s my 40th year with city of Woodward and I have seen a lot of people come and go,” Laird said. “It takes someone special to get down in the hole with the water in these temperatures. But these guys love their work and I like to give them a plug now and then for the work they do.”

 According to Laird, the booming economy in Woodward has been reflected in the top quality equipment his workers now have available to fix problems with the infrastructure quickly and effectively.

On Tuesday alone, a special chainsaw with a diamond bit saved the workers more than two hours because the saw allowed them to cut through the broken line quickly and begin repairs, he said.

“Yeah, as the ex-old mayor, Bill Fanning likes to say, ‘It’s a good time to live in Woodward,’” Laird said.