Moving the snow, to make room for more

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(Host) Another winter storm is bearing down on the region, and it could carry snowfall of six inches or more in many areas.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, the forecast has prompted public works crews to make room for more snow and to carefully measure their supplies of road salt.

(Sound of snow moving equipment)

(Sneyd) Eric Barkyoumb tears into a towering snow pile with the mammoth bucket of his front-end loader.

Barkyoumb is the acting road superintendent in Essex and he’s pushing back snowbanks so drivers can see around corners. And so there’s some place to put what’s coming next.

(Barkyoumb) “Getting ready for the next storm – another six inches plus … so getting ready for the next time and hopefully the time after that.”

(Sneyd) Like road crews throughout the region, Barkyoumb and his team of drivers have been doing a lot of this.

There was more than four feet of snow during December.

And, although there was a pretty good thaw last month, the snow machine has kicked in again in February.

(Lahiff) “88.4 is what we have since July first and normal to this date is 51.9. So that would be a departure from normal of 36.5 inches.”

(Sneyd) Yes, that’s three feet above normal.

National Weather Service meteorologist Conor Lahiff says just one foot of snow will put this season on the list of top ten snowiest.

And that’s taking a toll on road crews.

Barkyoumb in Essex says it’s just part of the job. But he concedes there have been a lot of nights when he sleeps for an hour, gets out of bed and peers out the window to check conditions, and then gets a little more sleep.

(Barkyoumb) “Well, in the early ‘80s when I first started there was hardly any snow. You’d get an inch here or two there. Then it’d be gone within a couple days. Then it would go to rain. And this year, like I say, in December, we had all that snow. It was like an old-fashioned winter. Then we got that thaw in January, which we got rid of that within two or three day. It was a good thing we did actually, because imagine the amount of snow we’d have now if we didn’t have that thaw?”

(Sneyd) Barkyoumb’s boss is Public Works Director Dennis Lutz. Like his counterparts in other towns, Lutz is worried about the supplies of salt in Essex.

(Lutz) “We’ve restricted the salt use to the steep hills, the intersections, the places where people really need it. The flat roads we’ve basically not put any down. That seems to have worked so far in terms of getting people around. A lot of it’s how lucky you get with respect to temperatures and weather, too.”

(Sneyd) After last week’s storm, Essex was pretty much down to an empty salt shed. Lutz been able to get a few truckloads and he thinks there’s enough for the coming storm – and maybe even the one that some long-range forecasts are suggesting could be in store for the weekend.

And after each of them …?

(Sounds of earth-moving equipment)

(Sneyd) … those front-end loaders will likely be back, hauling it out of the way.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.


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