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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Plow drivers have to return again and again

9:00 a.m.

HOLLIS – A plow truck driver was called out at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday following a fire call on Dow Road. The town’s other eight drivers weren’t far behind.

“Every storm is a little different. Nature throws you the cards and you play them. That’s how it works,” said DPW Director Jeff Babel.

Babel said the early morning calls were a best-case scenario –the worst time to start plowing is the late afternoon, at the end of the workday.

“When they start early in the morning, they’re fresh,” Babel said.

Plow drivers began by salting the roads on their routes before putting plows and getting what’s known as “the opener,” plowing for several hours depending on the rate of snowfall.

Babel called drivers back to the garage at about 8:30 a.m. for a break - 15 to 20 minutes to rest, drink coffee, have something to eat, and talk over how the morning went, before going out again.

Around 8:45 Babel said the snow is coming in “bands” - real heavy, a couple of inches an hour, and the wind is picking up.

Plowing in these conditions is challenging, Babel said, because the snow is falling so quickly that plow drivers have to return over and over again to clear roads they had cleared earlier.

“Thank God there aren’t a lot of cars out,” he said.

Babel said when it’s snowing a couple of inches an hour, the first roads plowed usually have 5 or 6 inches on them by the time the plow driver finishes a route and can return.

8:00 a.m.

HOLLIS - Automatic telephone notification of the cancellation of Hollis and Brookline schools was sent by SAU 41 School Superintendent Susan Hodgdon at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

About a half-mile down the road at the Hollis Communications Center, dispatcher Bob Gavin was preparing to head home after finish his overnight shift that began at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

“The snow started at around 2 a.m. and accumulated very quickly,” he said.

By 6:45 a.m. he estimated that between five and six inches covered the ground and he was anticipating a slow 14-mile ride home to Windham.

“If you drive smart you will be OK.” he said.

What about tailgaters and other impatient drivers?

“We were just talking about that,” he said. “I call them ‘snow brains’ which is very close to no brains.”

Snowplow drivers were called out at 3 a.m. to start their routes and no accidents were reported over night, Gavin said.

In Brookline, police officer Joseph Freeda said no cars were on the road once the snow began to fall.

“Nothing happened last night,” he said.

Freeda started his shift at 10 p.m. Tuesday and wasn’t able to travel very far in his police cruiser. The police department’s 4x4 vehicle is broken and sitting the parking lot.

“The cruiser couldn’t get up some roads,” Freeda said. “There was complete ice under the snow.”

A little before 7 a.m. Freeda was getting ready to finish his shift and drive home.

“I took my wife’s SUV,” he said.