In Cleveland there’s no business like snow business
by David Davis
Feb 26, 2014 | 1311 views | 0 0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The snow must go on?
Image 1 / 5
PUBLIC WORKS snowplow operator Steven Parks watches for stalled vehicles, oncoming traffic, fallen limbs, parked cars, signs, mailboxes, and children and adults playing in the snow wile clearing city streets. Below, making a snow man is one of the joys of this family playing in the snow. contributed photos, DAVID DAVIS

Whether it’s driving, working or playing in the snow, more and more people are realizing that just as the snow must go on, so must they.

For some agencies, like the Cleveland Public Works Department, that means there is no business like snow business — working 35 hours straight to clear city streets of more than 7 inches of snow that fell Feb. 12-13.

Public Works Director Tommy Myers said his department reported to work at 7 a.m. on Feb. 12 and did not go home until 6 p.m. the following evening. Teams of two, a driver and an observer, manned dump trucks fitted with snowplows and salt spreaders in four-hour shifts. They began salting city streets at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 12 and continued snow removal operations nonstop until 6 p.m. the following day.

Myers said he might structure crews differently next time, but an earlier snowstorm two weeks prior on Jan. 28 was too tiring on personnel. That snow was harder to clear because the salt was not as effective in colder weather and the trucks repeatedly treated the same places. As a result, Public Works used 350 tons of salt. The most recent event only required 150 tons.

“I was trying to keep them rested and alert this time. I’m not saying I would do it the same way again, but it worked this time,” he said. “Driving a snowplow is dangerous, so you try to keep everyone rested and still accomplish the job,” he said.

The department’s goal is to have streets cleared and the city moving again within 24 hours after the snow stops falling. The warmer weather on Feb. 13 aided operations and the streets were clear within 12 hours after it stopped snowing at about 6 a.m.

“They did a great job. They had the snow removed in 12 hours in spite of some breakdowns during the day,” he said.

One driver, Steven Parks was alone as he began his 24th consecutive hour at work. He rolled down the windows to let cold air circulate through the cab of his truck as he plowed the steep grades in the neighborhood along Tennessee Nursery Road near Fletcher Park.

The truck was hard to drive because the angle of the snowplow made the truck pull to the right. The slower the speed, the more the heavy, wet snow pulled the truck toward ditches and mailboxes, and in that neighborhood the plowing was slow going.

Parks pulled hard to the left on the steering wheel as the truck slowly made its way along the narrow and hilly streets. After 24 hours of relatively little relaxation, his hands, arms and shoulders ached. In addition, the entire truck, including the steering wheel, shuddered each time the blade bounced over a manhole or speed bump.

The 10-year veteran of the Cleveland Public Works Department began clearing Tennessee Nursery Road by working from the centerline toward the shoulders. At the same time, he watched for stalled vehicles, oncoming traffic, fallen limbs, parked cars, signs, mailboxes, and for children and adults playing in the snow.

“You try not to throw snow on parked cars and signs,” he said. “You try.”

He approached Tennessee Nursery Road from Harrison Pike until it turned into Valley Hills Trail N.W. About halfway up the hill, the regular street tires lost traction, even with all eight rear wheels engaged. He lifted the blade, shifted the transmission into reverse, then backed onto Valley Hills Lane N.W. Using only the side mirrors for guidance; he drove backward as far as possible before the tires began slipping. He made one more unsuccessful run up the dead-end street before turning his attention to Woodvale Street N.W. Driving forward, he pushed the snow as far as possible up that steep grade before his tires again lost traction. He put the transmission in reverse, lifted the blade and slowly backed down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, Parks lowered the blade and took another slow run. The truck inched farther up the hill before the tires once again lost traction and forced him to retreat down onto Valley Hills Trail N.W.

Parks knew he would have to approach Woodvale Street from the top if he was going to clear that street, so when he backed onto Valley Hills Trail N.W., he pointed the truck toward Harrison Pike.

For the moment, a young girl’s sledding hill was safe.

On Harrison Pike, he drove back toward town. He turned onto Westside Drive N.W., then to Georgetown Road N.W. and then drove the truck up Mount Vernon Drive N.W. to where it connected to Valley Hills Drive N.W., sounding the air horn as a warning as he approached blind curves and the crests of hilltops.

At the top of Woodvale Street, he again blew the air horn, this time as a warning that after more than two hours, sadly, the sledding hill was about to close.