Sioux Falls, SD
The biggest test of snow gates in Sioux Falls began Friday. This is the third year the city is testing the devices that block the snow from piling up at the end of driveways.
Just last week, the city council voted to hold an election in 2014 to let citizens decide whether they want snow gates implemented citywide.
Last year, there wasn't much snow and the devices were only tested twice, which is why officials are hoping for more snow and more testing this winter.
"It's normally at least a foot or two tall when we get a snow like this, so this is much better," Sioux Falls homeowner Rachel Fey said.
When Fey went out to clear her driveway Friday, she was one of the homeowners greeted by a small strip of snow instead of the large pile that is usually left behind by the plow.
"It's going to take us maybe five to ten minutes instead of a half an hour, which is a big deal," Fey said.
Fey lives in one of six neighborhoods that is part of the biggest snow gate test the city has ever done.
The devices are being used on 10 percent of city streets this winter. Officials also have six so-called 'control neighborhoods' without snow gates right next to the test neighborhoods to figure out exactly how much extra time, fuel and money it takes to drop the snow gate at every driveway to prevent the plow pile-up.
"What that does is it helps us to drill down, or narrow down, on what we believe the true costs are going to be; that's huge for us. I need to know what it's going to cost if we implement those. How much will this really cost the taxpayers?" Galynn Huber with the Sioux Falls Street Department said.
And while this is the third year of testing, it likely won't be the last now that an election is scheduled for 2014 to allow residents to decide if snow gates should be used in every city neighborhood.
"So, we'll use them this year, I'll use them again next year and then we'll see where it goes with the vote," Huber said.
But if you ask people like Fey, who experienced snow gates for the first time Friday, she already approves.
"I think they should definitely test them out more and see what more people think. I can't imagine anybody would be upset with less snow to shovel," Fey said.
Last winter, Sioux Falls only had about 16 inches of snow the entire season; with the latest storm, Sioux Falls already has 13.5 inches so the city will likely get more test data this year than last year.