When the Snowplows Come Out!

When the going gets tough… the snowplows come out!

Being in a Vermont town, Walter Sweet is no stranger to dealing with snow. “We are ready — we have the equipment!” says Sweet who is a 26-year member of the Highway Department. What you might not know is that our snowplows work in teams. In front are the iconic “big” trucks with the massive plow and 18 cubic yards of salt in the back. Following behind is the clean-up truck, mostly one-ton trucks, which follows behind and does the fine-tuning snowplow work on the edges. “The second vehicle has to pay attention to detail” notes Sweet, “I tell our guys that if you are keeping up with the first truck you are not doing your job.” The one-ton trucks are also used to clean out cul-de-sacs, turn arounds, and narrow streets.

So far this year we’ve used 3,000 tons of salt and 2,000 tons of sand… this is almost our budgeted limits due to all the ice and rain storms. Our town snowplowing policy is we plow until 9:00 p.m. and back at 3:00 a.m., unless snowfall exceeds 4”, or if there is black ice, freezing rain, or when emergency situations occur.

Knowing the roads is key. “Hitting a curb can do a lot of damage to a plow” notes Sweet. Needless to say, when those curbs, bridge abutments, stumps, rocks, and raised manhole covers are covered by a foot of snow, that experience becomes a necessity. Generally the same guys do the same route year after year in order to develop that knowledge.

Because the plows try to get as close to the road edge as possible, mailboxes can sometimes suffer. Occasional collisions with mailboxes are unavoidable, and sometimes just the power of the flying snow can knock over an older mailbox post. If your mailbox gets taken out, call the town at 442-1037 and we will resolve the issue.

Riding in the big truck is an experience. Not only are you sitting several feet above the ground, you are surrounded by a control system that operates the snowplow. Brad Sawyer operates the controls with the practiced ease of a six-year member of the highway crew with one hand as he navigates through his route. “Each route takes about three hours to complete” says Sawyer. “Patience would be appreciated knowing that it takes that amount of time.”

The biggest way you can help? Number one is to remember the overnight parking ban on town streets and removing other obstructions like basketball hoops until April 15. Another suggestion is to make sure to move your trash and recycling bins back away from the road — those can be a hazard, get damaged, or prevent our plows from getting close to the edge of the street. And finally, remind the person that plows your driveway that plowing or blowing snow into or across the road is not allowed.

Stay safe everyone!