“Over the river and through the woods … if you make it to grandma’s, thank a plow driver!”
That little line came from Peg Smith, a highway patrol foreman and SEA member, on the SEA’s Facebook page on Christmas day. It was a small reminder that even on a holiday, when the weather wasn’t all that wild, Department of Transportation crews were out making sure the roads were safe. Days like that, most people don’t even notice the hard-working folks who’ve made that trek to grandma’s house safe for all.
“The thing about working Christmas, most people know they’re going to work Christmas or not … we’re on call,” she said. “We can’t make any plans. We can make tentative plans, but they get thrown out the window.”
“A lot of the guys have kids, and they got called out just when the kids would be waking up on Christmas,” she said. “But that’s our mission, that’s our job: the roads have to be clear,” Smith said.
Smith had Wednesday off, but was warily watching weather reports as a winter storm churned towards New Hampshire. She was expecting to be called in around 8 or 9 Wednesday night.
“I’m sure we’ll be calling the whole fleet in,” she said. “The guys get up to the shed and call me, and I’ll tell them how much salt or material to grab, and whether to scrape and treat or scrape or just treat.”
“We’ll just keep going until the sun comes out,” Smith said.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll stop there – they’ll just change gears.
“It’s gonna snow really hard, and if and when it turns to rain, all of our basins are going to clog and the roads will flood,” she said.
If it starts snowing again in the afternoon, they’ll be back at work clearing the roads. All in all, Smith is expecting a long haul.
“We’re supposed to go home at 3:30 Thursday,” she said. “I’m thinking I’m not going home until 3:30 Friday.”
And that’s even tougher for crew members who worked their regular shifts on Wednesday, attaching plows to trucks, checking wipers and tires and fueling up.
But Smith says DOT crews are used to toiling away when few are looking – and most are sleeping.
“The most time we work is in the middle of the night,” she said. “We usually get called out at night for a salt run.”
“We go out and come back in and nobody knows we’re out there,” Smith said.