“It’s unreal, it’s an awful mess out there.”
In his 30 years of operating a snowplow, Todd White has never seen anything quite like it.
White was one of five City of Corner Brook employees deployed to St. John’s on Jan. 19 to help clear streets of snow during the city's state of emergency.
Snowplow and snowblower operators White, Rick Kean, Morgan Hammond, Brian Dawe, as well as mechanic Mike Marks all answered the call to assist the capital city dig out from its recent record snowfall.
White, 59, spoke to The Western Star by phone Thursday about the crew's first five days and the unique challenges the sheer volume of snow presented.
The Corner Brook crew has been working 12-hour shifts. White and Kean have been handling the day shift while Hammond and Dawe have been taking over during the nights.
Different crews have been assigned to different areas.
The Corner Brook crew, along with crews from Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor, was first tasked with cleaning up the Kenmount Terrace area. Their directive was to clear what they could on that particular route.
Marks does any needed repairs for the three imported crews.
“He’s the one really keeping it all going, running between and coming up and checking on us when we’re out running snow, checking to see if the machine is running right,” said White.
During their shifts, work has been almost constant. Some of the banks have been up to 15 feet high and the blower often has to remove snow in layers. It just can’t handle it in one cut.
White said they’ll lift the blower so that it takes about four or five feet off the top layer of snow. Then they lower the blower and take off another layer and continue the process as necessary.
“On Kenmount Road alone we had to do three cuts on each side,” he said.
In the early going, it was hard to tell just how much progress was being made.
“You got no concept of time here because it’s just go, go, go,” he said.
Street signs and stop signs were covered in snow, making it harder to identify the exact location or give directions when in need of assistance.
“Mike, the mechanic, he calls me every now and then, asking me where I’m at,” said White. “I tell him it’s not good to ask me where I’m at, there’s no street signs. So, I tell him, ‘you knows what area I’m in, the best bet is to follow the blower cut and you’ll find me.’”
Despite the incredible task at hand, White was equally impressed by the kind treatment and gratitude they’ve been shown from St. John’s staff and residents.
“The b’ys at the depot and the spotters are good as gold,” he said. “They’re taking care of us. The supervisors and the foremen over at the depot, Dave Batten, Steve Noseworthy and John Burton, you couldn’t ask for any better. They’re always checking on you and making sure you’re okay, checking to see if you need anything.”
Meanwhile, residents are lending a hand, with some even coming out and giving them bags of food.
White wasn’t sure how long they would be in St. John’s. They were told it could be up to two or three weeks, but it’s ultimately up to the City of Corner Brook when to call them back.
White said they’re willing to stay as long as they’re needed.