Wind: 6 mph
By Erin Post and Lisa Loomis
Members of Valley road crews had their work cut out for them during last week's blizzard and they rose to the occasion with alacrity. Their long hours of toil and devotion did not go unnoticed, and while road workers are back to regular hours, they are still cleaning up roads and pushing back snow banks.
In the aftermath of the storm, <MI>The Valley Reporter<D> contacted road foremen in Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and Moretown for details.
Warren road foreman Richard Robinson said his crew plowed for 35 hours straight during the Valentine's Day Blizzard.
As soon as the storm made its way into The Valley, the town had all five plows out in force, Robinson said. The crew managed the nearly 30 inches of snow that fell without any problems; he said town roads for the most part remained passable.
All it took was coffee, lots of junk food, and a determination to keep going.
Robinson said, at the height of the storm the snow fell so fast and furious that as soon as a plow driver made a pass through all of the roads in the section of town he was assigned, he just turned around and started the route all over again.
When the banks began to creep in to the point where the roadway began to narrow, a crew member would take the grader out and push them back to make room for more snow.
High winds and blowing snow kept plow drivers busy even into Thursday afternoon and Friday, well after the snow stopped falling.
Last week, Robinson said his crew members averaged a total of 65 hours on the job; he had 71 himself.
Now, with the worst of the weather behind them, the crew gets to rest a little, make minor repairs to some equipment, and start moving more snow around, Robinson said, this time off the roof of the garage.
In Moretown, highway employees kept up a similar rigorous schedule.
The town's three plows were out on the roads for about 20 hours Wednesday when the heaviest snow was falling, said road foreman Craig Elwell, before heading back out for another 14 to 15 hours on Thursday.
"We were trouble free," he said. "We were very, very fortunate."
Plow drivers tried to help out when they could, Elwell said, by rescuing stranded drivers or plowing a path to a driveway if they saw a resident's car idling in the road.
And even though the storm passed days ago, the road crew's work is by no means finished.
"We're still digging out here and there," Elwell said.
The crew is now starting to cut down some of the towering snow banks that obscure the view at road intersections, although Elwell added that rising temperatures expected over the next few days may help that problem as well.
This was road foreman Stuart Grandfield's first major event in his new position as foreman for the Waitsfield road department. He and the town's two other road workers started plowing at 5 a.m. on Valentines' Day and plowed straight through until midnight.
They were all back on the job by 4 a.m. Grandfield lives in Duxbury, his co-worker Rodney Jones lives in Waitsfield and co-worker Kendall Maynard lives in Moretown. With the advent of the storm, each driver was assigned a plow and a route and pretty much drove that route continuously for the duration.
"We all have a route and we just stayed on our routes, driving back and forth. It took two to three hours for each pass by the route," Grandfield said.
One typical route is out Waitsfield Common, up Ski Valley Acres roads, to the East Road and the environs. Another route is the paved roads and north end of town. The third route, plowed by the smaller truck, is the small side roads.
Drivers refueled during the day but did not take breaks. They just kept plowing throughout the day Wednesday and into the night.
"Now we're back on normal shifts and we're still cleaning up, pushing back banks and moving snow, but it's normal," Grandfield said.
"It was tiring, but everyone did okay," he said.
"Now that was a storm," said Fayston road foreman Mike Quenneville.
"Three hours into the storm, we lost one dump truck, the differential. So we were down to two dump trucks and a pickup. There were three of us, and so the guys drove their routes and covered mine as well. I spelled them in between," he said.
Quenneville, aided by veteran Fayston road crew members Stuart Hallstrom and Tony Long, started plowing at 6 a.m. on February 14 and plowed until after midnight. After a brief break, they started plowing again at 3 a.m.
People were patient and understanding for the most part, he said, although a few calls wondering when the plows would be through did come into the town garage.
"There wasn't much traffic which was nice because we didn't have to deal with cars stuck in the road. There were a couple of drivers who tried to make it through the snow banks into their driveways and got stuck, but not too bad," Quenneville continued.
In Fayston, the road crew spent February 13 getting equipment and themselves readied for the storm. Having the truck kick the bucket three hours into the storm put a monkey wrench in their machinery - literally.
"The guys had to drive my route, running all around where they don't usually and it screwed them all up. We budget to replace the town trucks every 10 years, but now I'm thinking we should be planning on replacing them every 8 years," Quenneville said.
Quenneville, Hallstrom and Long have been pushing back banks and cleaning up since last Thursday and have caught up on their sleep and are ready for the next storm - predicted for February 22, today.