With the blizzard approaching on Monday, Gov. Maggie Hassan took the rare step of closing state government on Tuesday, except for essential personnel. Many municipalities and businesses followed suit. While it seemed as if the state screeched to a grinding halt as the storm blew through, though, those essential personnel were hard at work. For them, a day like Tuesday is business as usual.
Department of Transportation road crews were out working to clear roads almost as soon as the storm began on Monday. In the case of Highway Maintainer Leon Gadwah IV, that meant 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. Gadwah – whose father, Leon III, works out of the Canterbury shed – talked with the Associated Press, who sent a reporter for a ride-along.
We spoke with Gadwah during a break Wednesday morning.
“The storm wasn’t too bad,” he said. “Right now, we’re struggling because with the cold temperatures, the salt does’t work work as well.”
After more than 30 hours at work, he said he was hopeful they’d be able to go home at the end of their regular workday so he can rest up to return for work tomorrow morning.
“Unless the roads freeze up tonight,” he said.
Along with the DOT, the State Police play a key role in keeping people safe on our state’s roads, and a key to helping them do so is making sure their communications infrastructure is in tip-top shape. Jim Kowalik, an SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member at the Department of Safety, works in the shop that maintains that communications infrastructure. He said they had no major problems, which he attributed to the work they do ahead of events like this.
“That’s proper planning,” he said. “We’ve set up the systems to work during these times.”
Kowalik said he and his colleagues are used to being considered essential.
“They consider it part of their job to come in in events like this,” he said. “We stand at the ready.”
In a worst-case scenario, that might mean trekking to a remote location via snowmobile or ATV to fix important equipment.
“It’s just part of the job to keep the communications systems going,” he said.
For facilities that provide direct care to patients, like the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, Tuesday was a fairly normal day. Becky Ladd, an LNA at the facility, said the commute took a bit longer, but it’s just something workers there plan for.
“When you’re expected to be here, you’re here,” she said. “You just need to plan for extra time.”
Ladd said the facility has been quiet lately, since visiting has been halted as a flu precaution, but the snow made things even more quiet. She said that just brings about better opportunities to connect with the residents.
“It’s a little more personal, we can talk about winters when they were younger and it gives them a chance to reminisce,” Ladd said.
In the end, despite the hub-bub of the storm, for these workers and all who worked on Tuesday, it was just another day.
“You just do what needs to be done,” Ladd said. “That’s what we do, as state workers, we do what needs to be done.”