As residents wonder if they will see the first real snowfall this winter this weekend, the Town of Smithtown Highway Department supervisor said the mild temperatures and no snow have given the crews time to get the town in better shape.
National Weather Service forecasters are predicting a 100 percent chance of snow this Saturday, mostly falling before 1 p.m. Long Islanders are told to be prepared for two to four inches.
"This Saturday, they are calling for two inches. I like when I get two inches of snow. I send my trucks out and whatever breaks is going to break, it's an easy fix," said Glen Jorgensen, superintendent of highways for the Town of Smithtown.
"A small snowstorm is a good start. We're looking forward to it," he added.
Highway department crews will be attaching the plow and spreader bars to their trucks in case they are needed in a pinch the next few days, something of a nightly tradition in the winter when the temperature dips low according to Jorgensen.
So far, Smithtown's seen barely more than a brief flurry and dusting of snow this winter. According to NWS data, a recording satellite station in Islip, the average temperature in the area eclipsed 40 degrees in December 2011, nearly five degrees higher than the monthly average. This month so far, an average of 35 degrees is 4.6 degrees above the norm.
The result - coupled with a decrease in average precipitation - has been no overtime costs incurred to the town, so far. Last year's snow removal cost Smithtown more than $1.5 million, eating up the annual budget and surplus funds, Jorgensen said.
With no need to spend time behind the plows, Smithtown Town Highway department crews have been able to focus their efforts on catching up with cleanup from 2011 -.
"We've been doing catch up work. The good weather has been nothing but a plus for us," Jorgensen said. "We had more than 500 trees down during the storm and there's still another 20 to 30 stumps that have to be pulled out."
The process of pulling out stumps of trees toppled by Hurricane Irene has been long and tedious work. For each stump, Jorgensen said town crews must contact utility companies to verify the location of water and gas mains so no further damage is done, before removing the stump. He hoped Smithtown might be able to finish the work by the end of next week.
Once those stumps are out, it will be on to mending local roadways.
"There are some roads that need to be permanently patched," Jorgensen said.
These are longstanding problem spots, as the mild weather has kept the usual winter potholes to a minimum. Jorgenson suspects they shouldn't be a problem, as long as the weather holds.
If the Highway Department doesn't have to use any of the $1,390,000 in the for snow removal, the money will be put into a surplus fund for future storms.