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Area Road Crews Prepare for Another Winter Storm, Deal With Long & Demanding Hours

by on March 04, 2015 12:21 PM

Ferguson Township road foreman Chris Leidy is eager for spring to finally arrive, and so is his family.

“My was saying to me last night, ‘I can’t wait for winter to be over so I can have my husband back,’” Leidy says, explaining that it can be difficult to balance his long hours and overnight shifts with his family responsibilities.

He – along with many public works workers from the township and other municipalities – have been hard at work keeping roads clear and safe though some harsh winter months, and it doesn’t seem like things are letting up.

Leidy started his day at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, preparing for some nasty winter weather that brought a mess of rain, sleet snow and icy roads to State College.

According to an Accuweather forecast, at least three more inches of snow will fall by Thursday morning. Penn State and the State College Area School District closed for the day in anticipation of the storm.

“We normally run around the clock during when bad weather is coming in,” Leidy says. “We’ll have crews working all day and night during a big storm.”

Ferguson Township Public Works Director Dave Modricker says the township divides its 12 road crew workers into three overlapping shifts in order to keep an eye on the roads at all times during inclement weather.

Today, they’ve been focusing on clearing slush off the township’s main roads and moving piles of snow off clogged drainage grates. Leidy says most people are probably enjoying Wednesday’s moderate temperatures, but it’s actually a problem for the road crews.

“With the temperatures being so warm right now, a lot of the snow on the ground is melting,” Leidy says. “We have to clear the inlets that are clogged with snow and ice, because everything that melted will freeze over on the roads once the temperatures drop again tonight. We’re up against the clock.”

Other municipalities are facing similar issues. Harris Township manager Amy Farkas says township road crews have been out since 3 a.m. clearing snow, slush and ice off roads and away from storm drains. She says the township only has four road crew members, who will be out and about keeping an eye on drains throughout the coming storm.

Modricker says he can feel tired and frustrated when he learns that more sour weather is on its way into State College, but adds that it’s the workers who are actually out on the road who get it the worst.

“The guys that really feel it the most are the ones who have to work the long and odd hours,” Modricker says. “They’re definitely ready for spring, but they’re troopers. They’ve been keeping their chins up, and they’ve been doing a great job.”

Modricker says Ferguson Township crews have had to deal with 25 separate winter weather events, a handful of which lasted several days.

Leidy says the overnight hours take some getting used to, “but that just comes with the job.” He says that whenever he hears about more crazy winter weather heading his way, his thoughts start to wonder. 

“I start thinking of Florida,” he says.

Want to learn more about the people that keep area roads safe during the winter? Check out our video from a ride along with a veteran snow plow operator from one this winter's many snowstorms.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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