City-owned trucks will no longer be used to clear snow off Iroquois Lake, city officials said Tuesday, after the second truck in a year broke through the ice.
No one was injured in the morning accident, but the city’s pickup truck sustained significant damage as it ended up fully submerged at the bottom of the pond.
The truck had been clearing snow in preparation for ice skating at the pond in Central Park. Despite the setback, Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen said he expected the lake to be open for skating by this weekend.
Olsen said precautions had been taken before the accident. Workers drilled a grid of 25 test holes to determine the ice thickness. Each hole revealed ice between 8 and 10 inches thick, enough to support the plow truck’s weight, Olsen said.
The truck was also directed to stay away from the concrete edges, where ice thickness is less predictable. But where the truck went through about 10 to 15 yards from the nearest test hole, the ice proved to be 4 to 5 inches thick, not enough to support a pickup and plow blade.
“We took precautions,” Olsen said. “It’s not like we said ‘it looks good so we’ll drive a truck out there.’ But apparently the precautions weren’t good enough.”
The incident began at about 6 a.m. when one of the truck’s wheels broke through the ice. The driver, parks supervisor Greg Davenport, escaped unharmed. But the truck soon settled, breaking all the way through.
Soon only the tip of the cab and bed were all that could be seen. The truck finally dipped entirely below the surface, requiring crews to use chain saws to cut away ice to help get it freed.
They finally got the front end up near shore, using loaders and chains. But the stubborn truck, with its plow blade still below the ice, hardly budged.
The bumper broke and the blade finally emerged, before its supports partially snapped. Workers finally cut the blade from the truck, repositioned the loader and tried again.
The incident happened almost a year after a similar, though less damaging event.
On Jan. 24, 2008, a city pickup truck broke through the ice while workers were clearing the lake. The truck broke through the ice so close to a concrete wall at the edge of the lake that city workers were able to drag it out with a front-end loader.
The city used to own a Zamboni to smooth the ice but it broke down long ago. Since then, city workers have sometimes used snowblowers to clear the lake.
Olsen said he hopes to get a lighter, older vehicle for the express purpose of plowing the lake. For now, he said they would use a “glorified golf cart” with a plow blade to finish the job. The truck that tanked Tuesday had a book value of about $16,000, Olsen said; insurance may cover repairs.
City officials have blamed early season snow and ice storms for delaying the opening of the Central Park lake for skating. Snow covered the forming lake ice just a couple weeks too soon. The ice was deemed too thin to support a plow, but it wasn’t expected to freeze any thicker until the insulating blanket of snow was removed.
Despite the problems, Olsen said ice skating at Central Park is an important offering, especially these days.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “We want to provide as much recreation opportunities for our residents as possible, in part because of the economic times. People don’t have the ability to go further away from home to pay facilities.
“I personally think it’s worthwhile regardless,” he said. “But we have to come up with a way of getting a lighter piece of equipment.”