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Thursday, February 7, 2008

The big dig out begins

By Mike Heine/The Week

Tuesday and Wednesday's massive snowfall may be a blessing in disguise, county public works Superintendent Larry Price said.

Mike Heine/The Week
Walworth County public works mechanic Jeff Pugesek got lucky while replacing the hydraulic line on a town of Geneva plow truck. Most of the snow and ice had already melted off the undercarriage before he got a chance to work on it. Mechanics will often wear rain coats when performing such repairs during the midst of a snowstorm.

"The public stays off the roads," he said. "The media hypes it up, everyone gets their supplies and stays home. It makes it easier for our guys.

"With 1 or 2 inches, we still have to cover the same amount of road but the people are out there. They're tailgating (plows), passing them. It makes it really difficult."

All 32 Walworth County plows started about 3 p.m. Tuesday. Drivers pulled off about 11 p.m. to sleep inside their trucks or on the floor of the public works garage, Price said.

"They know that's part of the job," Price said. "This year though, these guys have worked every weekend since Dec. 1. A big snowfall like this is kind of fun."

Coffee, caffeine and energy drinks help drivers get through the day, said Mark Mullikin, also a superintendent.

"It becomes repetitive, but I have to admit, with the forecast, the adrenaline started pumping and guys got excited knowing they were going to have a large snowfall," he said Wednesday morning. "By now though, 12 hours into it, it's probably starting to get old."

There were no real problem areas to report in the county, but most roads are still snow-covered and slippery.

With blowing and drifting snow, Price expects crews to work through Friday with this storm.

He gives the drivers' wives a lot of credit for putting up with Mother Nature's winter fury.

"Their husbands can be called away at any time, and it happens all the time, Thanksgiving, Christmas. More times than not they're called out, it seems, when Christmas dinner starts," Price said. "They've missed school events, basketball games, wrestling meets. But (the wives) are all really understanding."

Price and Mullikin are the ones who make the calls to bring the crews into work. Usually, it's the wives who answer the phone in the middle of the night.

"It's almost funny, joking around with them about how we have to stop meeting like this," Price said.

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