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Road crews ready for rest

January 29, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

County road crew employees wore their exhaustion on their faces Wednesday after several days of digging the area out of snow from multiple storms.

Although most of them have spent about half the hours since Friday on snow-plowing equipment or in a shop fixing it, the crew members seemed to be in good spirits and prone to occasionally ribbing one another.

When Sam Mowery, in his first year with a plow route, said, "Actually, I like it," it drew comments such as "He needs his head examined" and jokes about it being Mowery's rookie year.

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More than 100 people from crews with the city and county were out clearing roads and sidewalks and fixing equipment during 12- to 16-hour shifts throughout wintry conditions that pounded Washington County in recent days.

Many of them said the long hours have taken a toll on them.

"I'm about beat; I need some rest," said Bill Hawbaker, in his ninth year with the Washington County Highway Department.

"After three or four days of this, it kind of gets old," Highway Department Director Theodore Wolford said.

Hagerstown public works employee Frank Nuice called their headquarters on Memorial Boulevard his "home away from home." Nuice and others said they have had little time to spent with their families since Friday's surprise snowstorm.

"The days have kind of blended together," said a groggy Nuice.

Nuice said plowing the snow has been arduous because of the city's many narrow streets and long periods without a break from the storm.

"It was piling up in the street as fast as we were plowing it," Nuice said. "The pile you were pushing was as big as the pile behind you."

Equipment operator Steve Bowman said he was looking forward to a night without worrying about snow.

"You don't eat right or get the proper rest, so you're really tired," Bowman said. "Thank goodness for Sheetz coffee."

Hagerstown Public Works Director Eric Deike said the department was shutting down operations at 3 p.m. Wednesday because the entire crew was "a little weary."

"These guys have done a great job and deserve the night off," he said.

Deike said he and the crew were glad to see the weekend forecast did not include snow.

"At least we'll probably get the weekend off and watch the Super Bowl without coming in," he said.

Many road crew employees for the city and county had to do just that while the game was on last year, said Rusty Baker, in his fifth year with the county.

Baker said the plow operators were not the only ones working long hours during the storm. He said mechanics and administrators worked just as many hours.

"We stay here until the last truck comes in," Baker said.

Baker said the camaraderie always seems to increase when crews are faced with adverse conditions like those of the past week.

"There's no use coming in here with a bad attitude," Baker said. "We're like one big happy family when it snows. Don't get us wrong, we can't wait for the summer."

Mowery saw the positives of the situation, saying driving a snowplow beats working in manufacturing - his last job - hands down.

"I get to get out and around," Mowery, a welder by trade, said.

"And if I take care of a machine, I won't have to fix that one later," he added with a laugh.

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