Winter warriors: Truckee crew works round the clock to keep roads clear
Digging a car out of several inches of snow is often the only barrier for those traveling after a winter storm.
Once out of the driveway a clear road awaits.
For Truckee’s snow removal crew that’s likely meant working 12-hour days to plow that open pathway.
“It’s just the name of the game, that’s the job,” said Chad Nelson, senior street maintenance worker for the Town of Truckee.
Nelson’s had just two days off last month.
February record snowfall — Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows had its snowiest month ever with 313 inches, breaking the record of 282 inches set January 2017 — consistently dumped snow on a near-daily basis, not offering snow-plow drivers much of a break.
“What’s made it challenging is the short period that it fell in,” said Nelson. “The banks are so high, so snow storage really decreases when we have this amount of snow.”
When the weather allows, Nelson said crews work to haul snow out of packed areas to alternative locations such as a downtown lot.
“Because we didn’t really have a break this year we weren’t able to do that,” he said.
While the lack of snow storage was a hurdle to get over, Nelson said the biggest challenge was keeping all the equipment running properly.
“When everything’s running great, we can clear the roads much faster,” he said.
Due to the wet and heavy snow in February, however, more strain is put on the plows and snow blowers making equipment failures more frequent. According to Nelson the town has 10 snow blowers. At one point this winter they were only operating three due to equipment breakdowns.
“When that happens it really makes it hard for us to keep up with everything,” said Nelson. “It takes time for our shop to get parts, get them repaired and get back up and running. Our efficiency is very dependent upon them keeping our equipment running,” he said, adding that “they’ve done a fantastic job this year.”
During the winter, Truckee employs around 30 people to handle street maintenance, many of which are seasonal employees. When it’s snowing Nelson said employees switch off between 12-hour shifts often working 80-hour weeks.
“We’re really proud of what our employees do,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough.”
The maintenance team consists of crews to lay down sand on the road after a storm, plow crews and street sweepers. Sand crews will work a day shift from 4 a.m to 4 p.m. with night crews taking over until 4 a.m. the next morning. Plow crews will work day shifts from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and night shifts until 6 a.m. Once the layer of snow melts from the roads, street-sweeping crews responsible for removing dirt and debris are rolling throughout 8-hour day and night shifts.
Though the work is strenuous at times, “we do what we have to do because we want to live up here,” Nelson said.
The latest winter storm to hit the Truckee-Tahoe area brought more than 20 inches of snow to several local ski resorts. Squaw Valley has reached 611 inches in total snowfall for the season, with Alpine Meadows at 507 total inches and Northstar at 547 inches.
Following a brief dusting Tuesday night, the forecast is calling for clear skies the next week according to the National Weather Service.
“We’ll probably get a few more storms, but hopefully not too many,” said Nelson. “I think a lot of the guys are really tired.”
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.