Denver is paying $1 million a week in snow removal costs. Aspen is paying $15 million a week bringing snow in.

Snowplow at DIA

The misery from the winter blasts of 2006-07 could soon pass the notorious storms of 1982-83, which helped send one Denver mayor packing after failing to unclog streets.

Perhaps with that in mind, Mayor John Hickenlooper on Tuesday fought back hard against criticism, calling the current five- storm surge "unparalleled" and pledging to spend big bucks to assure that the city’s side-street ice ruts are never so deep again.

He couldn’t say how much that would cost, but the city is spending close to $1 million a week in its current campaign against snow and ice.

The city has never seen so much snow wedded to so many subfreezing nights, the mayor said.

It has been so cold and the ice pressed so hard to the streets that some have been "almost impossible to plow," Hickenlooper said.

With little warming in sight, this current series of storms likely will surpass the Christmas storm of 1982 in the number of days with at least one inch of snow on the ground, according to the National Weather Service. And if the weather pattern doesn’t improve, this series of storms could possibly climb to first place, said weather service meteorologist Jim Kalina.

But all the comparisons with past storms haven’t quelled a chorus of criticism among Denverites contending with rutted streets more than a month after Mother Nature’s main blast.

"I am tired of waiting, too," said the mayor.

Maybe only nature can save the day.

Manager of Public Works Bill Vidal told frustrated City Council members Tuesday that there are 14,000 city blocks in Denver and that ice can be cleared from only 100 to 200 a day.

At an afternoon press conference, the mayor trimmed that estimate down to 80 to 100 blocks a day.

No matter whose math is right, the situation is grim.

So far, Vidal said, about half of Denver’s residential streets have been "attacked." And attacked doesn’t mean cleared.

With that in mind, Vidal turned to the heavens.

"I hope warm weather helps us go a little faster," he said.

Facing more than 45 inches of snowfall so far – with the historically snowiest months still ahead – Vidal managed to stay in good humor while fending pointed questions from council members.

Public Works sometimes feels caught "between the dog and the fire hydrant" in trying to please everyone, Vidal said.

He said he is constantly revising strategic plans to systematically attack the compacted ice that has created a mountain of complaints at City Hall.

Asked by City Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz if she could promise some of her constituents on a particularly hard-hit street whether they could expect a city crew within five days, Vidal said that would be optimistic.

Ten to 15 days would be a better guess, he said

Vidal said streets have been cleaned in priority order.

In addition to the main arterials, first priority went to streets around schools, hospitals and police and fire stations.

"The problem right now is our strategy is very limited because of the cold weather," he said.

"If we could get it above freezing, then we have other strategies that we could use where we could make better progress," Vidal said. "But right now, we’re in this cold spell. And then, on top of that, it’s snowing every few days."

Via Rocky Mountain News