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Plowing in a Blizzard is 'Just Plain Old Hard Work'

Monroe's Highway Department crews teamed up with Parks & Recreation and private contractors to quickly clear town roads and major parking lots.

Long before the air was thick with snow at the height of the blizzard on Friday, Feb. 8, Monroe Highway Department crews had punched in at the Purdy Hill Road garage and their plow trucks were ready to go. On Wednesday morning, Highway Superintendent Jim Robinson pored over his handwritten notes, while recounting how his crew made Monroe's roads passable well before their counterparts in surrounding towns.

The town's crew members arrived at the garage at 6:30 a.m. that Friday and did not finish the initial job until 6 p.m. on Saturday, when several of them could not go back home due to snow-covered roads in their own towns. Some drivers slept on couches and in chairs during their shift, while others slept in their trucks.

"It's just plain old hard work is what it was," Robinson said, looking up from his notebook.

The momentous task of clearing the town's roadways required 17 of Monroe's old trucks, two private contractors for the dirt roads and one for the industrial park on Pepper Street. Three Parks & Recreation drivers cleared snow from parking lots and sidewalks at Monroe Town Hall, Edith Wheeler Memorial Library and Monroe Food Pantry.

Robinson said a private contractor plowed at Jockey Hollow Firehouse, primarily so the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service's ambulances could respond to calls.

The Department of Public Works averages at least one breakdown, in which a truck has to be towed, per storm, Robinson said, adding the trend continued during the blizzard.

"Other than one truck, we were able to keep others on the road with bubble gum and bailing wire," he said. "We were right on top of the storm and able to move snow until 10 at night."

Blinded by the White

Plow truck drivers had to get off the roads at 10 p.m. that Friday for their own safety, because the snowfall was so dense, they could barely see passed their windshields, Robinson said.

The trucks parked at strategic locations, including the EMS, Monroe Fire Station No. 1, Stevenson Fire Station 2 and the Monroe Police Department. On the Stepney side of town, Robinson said the trucks were in the yard.

Eighteen DPW staffers and three from Parks & Rec. had to find places to sleep for the night. "Nobody went home, and they couldn't get home anyway," Robinson recalled.

"There's not a place to take a nap," David "Rocky" Davin, a Highway Department crew leader, said. "You sleep in your truck."

The crew members were stirred early, when they were called to rescue someone who got stuck on Church Street at 4 a.m.

After that, a lot more work lay ahead.

"The worst of the snow appeared to be over," Robinson said. "We had a serious problem, we went back to old school methodology and one-by-one brought the trucks in and put skid chains on them. Then we started working our way from the Highway Garage to the center of town."

Trucks worked in tandem, with one truck plowing behind another.

At daybreak, Robinson rented large payloaders to open up the town's roads.

"By roughly 6 o'clock at night we had 98.5% of the town roads opened up, which is an amazing feat," Robinson said.

But there was no rest for the weary.

Throughout the week, crews came in for post storm clean up, widening the roads, sanding and using a wing plow — which picks up snow and places it on top of snow closer to the side of the road like a shelf. And they weathered a day of freezing rain in the process.

The weather forecast for this weekend? Snow.

donna miller February 21, 2013 at 10:54 AM
THUMBS UP TO JIM ROBINSON AND HIS CREW......YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST
Walt February 21, 2013 at 12:41 PM
A really great job, and like it was mentioned Monroe roads were open and passable before all the surrounding towns. It's hard work and blood money, but a job well done.
Sheila D February 21, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Thank you to our entire DPW crew for their commitment and persistence to keeping our roads safe. For anyone who wishes to complain about the overtime, I hope you remember that you were able to get to work on Monday versus being out their salary like Bridgeport was, and for many days at that. Thank you DPW!
Sharon February 21, 2013 at 01:15 PM
Incredible job in getting our town cleaned up so quickly. Thank you to the whole crew who worked so hard to get this done!
Jaime February 21, 2013 at 01:28 PM
Really did an incredible job in such a short time!! Thanks!!!!! Even my one land dirt road was done by 3/4 pm that day. Thanks Again for all your hard work and long hours!!!
Life By The Green February 21, 2013 at 02:53 PM
After being stranded out of town for a few days, I drove home from Hartford/Bradley at 5pm on Sunday. It was a treacherous journey, and the ride from Route 8 through Shelton was particularly white knuckle. What a pleasant surprise when I entered Monroe. Well done men!
Marven Moss February 21, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Well-desrved kudos to Jimmy and his crew. Marven Moss
Jen T February 22, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Monroe was by far the most efficient town during this storm. Job well done.
Jim beam February 22, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Yeah, they got the roads cleared so residents would be more tolerant of a 5.43% tax increase. Really? That takes quite some nerve. And the increase is stated in such a matter of fact manner, as if, "well, what's the problem?" The drafters of these municipal budgets have no shame, whatsoever. Four wheel drive vehicle for Vavrek? Of course. Inserting knowingly low figures into the "legal expense" budget line item? Well, that's "fiscally conservative", don't you know? Let's just say, "no!" Enough is enough.
Joel Leneker February 27, 2013 at 07:59 PM
A belated thanks to Jim Robinson and his DPW crew in clearing the roads during the blizzard of 2013. Fantastic job! Can't say enough for your team's quick and thorough job.

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