by Carla Occaso
MONTPELIER — Working in shifts throughout the day and overnight March 14, Montpelier’s ‘snow fighters’ kept the layers of quickly falling snow from completely suffocating the city during the season’s largest blizzard.
Due to much advance publicity, local schools, state offices and other places of business closed early. This allowed Montpelier’s five Ford 550s, four dump trucks and one pickup with a plow to stay ahead of the layers without also battling traffic and parking congestion. The size of city plow vehicles are chosen in relation to the sizes of city streets. The 550s are medium-sized and work well in narrow neighborhood streets, explains Tom McArdle, director of the Department of Public Works, by phone to The Bridge. The larger dump trucks are equipped with plows — two with wings — to wing back the banks of highways including Routes 12 and 2.
This work requires dedication and skill, and McArdle said his workers are up for the job. “One good thing for snow fighters. They are very good at what they do. They like the challenge,” he said. The added challenge of keeping up with a heavy snowfall is traffic and parked cars, but the early business closings alleviated that. Most of the team headed home at 9 p.m. and a three-person night shift plowed throughout the night and kept the main arteries open. Heavy winds causing drifts were a factor as well.
The big hangup this storm was keeping the sidewalks clear. The sidewalk plows had some mechanical difficulties in addition to a huge accumulation of snow that required crews to use snow blowers. They came in at 3 a.m. and were still at work clearing sidewalks by 3:45 p.m. and counting, McArdle said. Adding to the situation is extra work caused by homeowners plowing driveway snow back into the city sidewalks. “These driveways don’t lend themselves to being plowed by plow truck drivers,” McArdle observed. Better would be to use shovels or snow blowers and target the snow away from the cleared sidewalk.
But one good thing was that on March 15, the day after the storm, the municipal workers put on their annual St. Patrick’s Day meal over at the Department of Public Works building on Dog River Road.
This meant that the hard working snow warriors could come in for a warm break and a hot meal before heading back out into the snow.
Cleanup will continue through March 16 with crews pushing back and/or removing snowbanks — especially around the schools. More snow is predicted for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
There were six vehicles towed, one from the street and three from parking lots.
The cost, including manpower, equipment, supplies and fuel, is expected to be around $25,000 to $30,000, McArdle said. A typical storm costs around $15,000 to $20,000.