Whenever the North Island gets a dump of snow, spare a thought for your local snowplow driver who’s out working in crappy conditions while you are, or at least, should be, back home warm and dry.
That’s the message in not-so-many-words from the man managing the team keeping North Island highways clear of snow and safe to travel on.
“What our crews do is, it’s a pretty serious job,” Chris Cowley, general manager of Mainroad North Island Contracting, said in a YouTube video released on the first day of winter 2022. “We ask our operators to head out in the worst of conditions. When people are asked to stay home and not drive, that’s when we go to work.”
When the snowplows are working, Cowley suggests drivers give them as much “freedom to work in and room as possible.” Stay well back of the plow – “The roads are always better behind it than in front of it” – and give yourself more time than you normally would to reach your destination. Snowplow drivers will pull over if they think that people are being held up and let everyone pass.
Also, when encountering a snowplow, never pass on the right.
Cowley said that highway crews are looking at a similar situation to what was experienced last year, as far as precipitation is the current forecast. We do get a lot of precipitation, he said, but whether it is in the form of snow or rain is usually matter of degrees as we tend to hover between plus two and minus two.
Last year was a particularly severe winter for Service Area 3 between Christmas and New Year’s. We had high volumes of snow and repeat events back-to-back.
What that creates for highway crews is a situation where they don’t have a full opportunity to clean up before the next event comes. Crews will clean up the A Class roads, then the B Class roads and school bus routes but then it will start snowing again and so they have to return to the A Class roads. So, it can be a while before they can get to the side roads.
One thing Mainroad has started doing is pulling crews from areas not so hard hit to help crews on hard hit areas.
Mainroad crews are diligent about monitoring weather forecasts, too. They have contracted a meteorology company that analyzes the weather more than than what you get from the regular Environment Canada forecast.
“Our crews look at those on an hourly basis so that we can adjust what we’re doing and what we’re prepared for before it comes,” Cowley said.
Cowley said Mainroad crews are ready to do what it takes whenever a snow event occurs.
“One things for sure, if its snowing, we’re out there. It’s the job we have and we take it very seriously. Just because you don’t see a truck doesn’t mean they’re not out there. They could have gone to a different area or you’d just be ahead of you or behind you.”