All in a snow day

Story by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

He was on the good end of a 12-hour shift.
“It’s 2:30. Just a few more hours, and then I get to go home,” Dwayne Schwartz told me as he drove us across the city of Waynesboro today in a dump truck equipped with a plow to move snow from the first snow event of 2008.
Up to six inches of snow had been predicted, and though less fell than had been anticipated, it still made for some treacherous driving in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia.
Schwartz, at 28 already a nine-year veteran of the public-works department in Waynesboro, was among the legions keeping the roads as clear as they could be kept given the circumstances.

Part of a five-man crew working the West Main Street-Rosser Avenue corridor, Schwartz was driving the lead truck in what had to look to drivers to be something of a procession – four trucks with plows all following in a line with the goal in mind of moving snow from the middle of the road as far over to the side as possible.

The crew is basically the same as it has been for years – which Schwartz said was an aid as far as getting the job done was concerned.
“You really get a camaraderie when you get to working with the same people year in, year out. You get to know what everybody’s job function is. You get to know the area that you’re pushing,” Schwartz said in an interview for “The Augusta Free Press Show.”

His day job in public works has him serving as the city’s water works coordinator. But during winter-storm events, Schwartz’ priority is clearing the streets of the River City one swipe of the plow at a time.

A pure-snow event like today’s storm event is probably the preferred kind of winter storm.
“The ice is the most dangerous,” Schwartz said. “The ice is when you’ve really got to watch out for other motorists. Pretty much all the weather, though. It depends – you get the freezeover with the snow, so that becomes treacherous as well. But pretty much I would say the ice is the worst.”

Outside of the always-tricky weather conditions, there is the fact that you are driving a huge truck outfitted with a heavy plow that can make the job an adventure.
“What you always have to do is when you’re driving, you’ve got to be alert – to make sure that you know that they’re back there. You know, a lot of times you get into doing stuff that’s repetitive, whether it’s salt-spreading or using your plow to move the snow out of the way, you just need to make sure that you remember that they’re right behind you,” Schwartz said.

The mantra of the plow driver – slow down, young man, slow down.
“A lot of times when you’re pushing, and you’re the last truck to push on a highway or in a subdivision, what you have to do is you need to take your time – slow down. Because when you get the heavy, wet snow, if you go too fast, then, it’s just like a truck pressing up against a car,” Schwartz said.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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