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Snow plows: Out on the road 24 hours a day

by Andy Bourelle

While many Douglas County residents avoid driving on icy roads during big snow storms, there’s one group of people who do just the opposite – the county’s road maintenance crew.

During large snow storms, county employees work 24 hours a day, plowing roads and making sure they are clear for residents to drive on.

“We run all the way from Topaz to Lake Tahoe, and to the north end of the Valley,” said Brett Reed, Douglas County road maintenance superintendent.

Reed has a crew of 10 personnel responsible for keeping about 135 miles of paved and 90 miles of gravel roads free of snow and ice in Douglas County. Two of the road maintenance operators work a 12-hour night shift, keeping the county’s “primary arteries” clear. Then, the remaining workers do a 12-hour day shift, clearing primary, secondary and gravel roads. During the 12 hours, about 10 are spent on the roads, and the remaining time is spent fueling, inspecting and doing necessary maintenance on the vehicles.

The road crew has two trucks with plows and sanders, which spread materials on the roads to melt ice. The workers also use three graders and three four-wheeled drive pickup trucks with front-end plows. The crew can also use county front-end loaders if necessary.

The road maintenance operators have a wide-variety of every-day responsibilities such as taking care of the county’s road signs, striping the roads, maintaining traffic signals and being on call for emergencies. However, in the winter, the road workers have the added responsibility of keeping the road’s clear in bad weather.

Reed said his staff works without complaint, and he has a lot of praise for their hard work.

“It’s a great team. They all work together and really are a unified body,” he said. “They make it a team effort and not an individual effort, and that’s the way it’s got to be. They all have a great amount of respect for one another.”

Although the staff works together as a team, they also receive help from others. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s schools keep in constant communication with the road crews. The crew follows a routine, but the open communication allows them to attend to emergencies or needs that should be addressed sooner.

About eight inches of snow fell on the Carson Valley Monday, causing the state to issue a winter storm warning. Still, Reed said the snowfall this year has been average. Reed has worked for the county’s road maintenance department for 17 years, and he can remember much worse.

“The worst winter was probably in ’93,” he said. “In the ’92-’93 season, we plowed for approximately 41 days straight. Then last year, prior to the flood, was pretty intense.”

Even with all the hard work and the cooperation of the sheriff’s office and the schools, Reed said, the road crew still needs the help of another group of people to make sure the roads are safe – residents.

“We ask for the public’s patience and for them to please slow down,” Reed said. “We will be there as soon as possible, but there’s only so much we can do at one time.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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