Village crew works snow days
- Published: February 25, 2010
When the sky turns a steely grey and snow starts sheeting down, many residents run for their hearths and accept that they’re at the mercy of the white burial. But Village crew members head straight at the snow, outfitting themselves with plows and backhoes to wrangle up some order, at least in the streets. The eight members of the Village street and electric crews have done quite a bit of wrangling this month since the winter’s two biggest snowstorms dropped nearly 20 inches of snow on the village.
On Friday afternoon, Feb. 5, it started snowing. It just so happened that Street Superintendent Dave Conley was on vacation in Florida, and Kelley Fox, superintendent of electric and water distribution, was also out due to a death in the family. So longtime road crew guys Kent Harding, who has 26 years with the Village, and Greg Jones, who has 21 years, headed out with Jason Hamby to tackle the job themselves.
They took two 8-ton dump trucks and a 1-ton dump fitted with plows and set to tackling Xenia Avenue, Fairfield Pike, Spillan Road and Dayton, Corry, Limestone and Allen Streets as priority roads to clear first. Late that evening, the street guys well into overtime hours and the clouds showing no sign of moving off, three electric and water crew guys came in to relieve their comrades. Senior leader Jane Hamilton joined Jason Woods and Dan Mayenschein to put in a late-night shift on top of the full day they had just worked to push more snow. The crew plowed 24 hours a day for three days straight.
Snow removal is not an intuitive art, Conley said last week. There are ways to do it well and ways to really screw it up, which can sometimes land the plower wrongside up in a ditch. Plowing when you can barely see out the windshield, let alone distinguish the edge of the road, is especially treacherous on Corry Street, he said, where a steep swale could start a heavy truck on a slide toward the bottom of the Glen. Intersections are no joke either, and the snow must be moved in a star pattern from the center out to the edges to maintain visibility and keep the snow from falling back into the street, Conley said.
And just when the team is completely spent, the Village’s old water mains burst and the electric lines blow to challenge their stamina for a few hours more. According to Fox, that Friday night a tree limb with too much snow snapped and took down a power line on Orton Road. Two crew members were pulled off the road to help, but they couldn’t get through the snow to reach the line and had to call in a contractor the following day. The crew has fixed five water mains that have cracked this year due to shifting as the ground freezes.
Once the snow stops, the crews start salting the roads and plowing the interior streets, alleys, sidewalks and municipal parking lots such as the library, Gaunt Park, Ellis Park and the Bryan Center. They had plowed the village into fairly good shape over the weekend, and then on Tuesday, Feb. 9, it started snowing again. Conley and Fox had both returned by then, and all eight crew members put in a couple more 16-hour days for a total of 32 hours of overtime for one crew member for both events.
Plowing snow can be peaceful, said Conley, who keeps close radio contact with the other drivers at all times, in case anyone gets stuck. Conley got stuck in the snow at the Village water treatment plant one night this month and had to call for backhoe help as well. But it can also be eerie, Fox said, out there alone at night getting hypnotized by the pattern of the flakes falling down in front of the headlights. The snow and the late night work put Woods to sleep one night when he couldn’t make it through the snow back home to West Liberty. He spent the night in his truck at the Village “farm” on State Route 343.
According to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, the northern part of Greene County received about 18 inches of snow during both of the two-day events on Feb. 5 and 6 and Feb. 9 and 10. The work isn’t over, and the crew is now busy repairing their heavily taxed equipment, including welding two plows and a truck fender. It’s a good thing, because mid-Februrary in Ohio, the snow may not quite be finished.