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Snow Road-eo Promotes Safety Among Frederick City and County Staff

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by Caylee Winpigler photos by Michael Winpigler for Walkersville High School Lion’s Pride

Are you already fantasizing about snow? Are you ready for building snowmen? Did you realize that the roadway staff of Frederick is already preparing for snow? Although it is only October, Frederick City and County members already began practicing for another round of snow this upcoming winter.

Their mode of practicing occurred on October 11th at an event called the annual Snow Road-eo.

“The Snow Road-eo is an annual event put on jointly by the City and |County in preparation for anticipated snow events in the coming winter. It is comprised of training on equipment in the form of ‘friendly competition.’  It allows staff to become more familiar with the equipment that they will be operating in the coming months. It also, just as importantly, is an opportunity for staff across both agencies (County and City) to network and communicate as our success depends upon communication and cooperation,” explained Director of Public Works, Zack Kershner.

Kershner’s said his job includes “the leadership of and the ultimate responsibility for the four departments within Public Works; Parks and Recreation, Engineering, Planning, and Operations.” He has ten years worth of experience working in the City of Frederick, so he is no stranger to the various snow incidents that have occurred in the area.

The events of the Snow Road-eo include “both one ton and ten ton dump trucks on an obstacle course. This consists of an Offset Alley, Alley Dock, Cul-de-sac, Serpentine, Plowing inside Curve, Plowing between Parked Cars, and Diminishing Clearance that all the drivers must drive through… All drivers must do a safety truck inspection,” said the Superintendent of Highway Operations, Bill Routzahn.

The highway maintenance staff firmly believes in practice makes perfect. These staff members certainly work hard to earn the privilege to wear their orange and beige workmen shirts.

Even with this seemingly well prepared ensemble of people, they are not always able to anticipate the unpredictable. Unpredictable occurrences come in the form of civilians being unaware that the placement of their car has an impact on a workmen’s ability to efficiently and effectively do their jobs.

Director of the Public Works Division for the City of Frederick, Charles Nipe, is all too familiar with the troubles of handling a snowstorm and residents personal property, “we appreciate when citizens refrain from parking on roadways during weather events. It reduces potential issues for the operators and allows us to perform our services in a timelier manner.”

Unfortunately for those in the snow plows, parked cars are the least of their concerns. Kershner commented on how challenging it is to plow while vehicles are driving on the street. This prompts them to “encourage drivers to stay off the road when possible during a snow event and to move cars to their driveways or garages if available… I recommend that if a driver absolutely must be on the road, that they slow down and drive with caution and please show patience when they come upon one of our snow plows. ”

In addition, Routzahn contributed the helpful advice of not parking cars in cul-de-sacs because snow gets plowed into them and accumulates quickly.

The annual Snow Road-eo attempts to simulate these situations to prevent disastrous accidents. They have activities to complete in various vehicles to aid in the employee’s preparation.

Personally, Kershner enjoys watching the backhoe competitions. “It is amazing to me the level of preciseness with which some of the employees can operate such a large piece of equipment.” While they are capable of impressive feats, some of the employees still make mistakes. Mailboxes are plowed into, cars are covered in snow, and the snows depth is underestimated.

Kershner admitted an instance when the latter had occurred to him. “I had an opportunity to operate a Jeep with a snow plow during the blizzard last year with the Mayor. As I was plowing down a major roadway, suddenly the Jeep seemed to sink into the deep snow all the way up to over top of the hood. The snow had drifted and you couldn’t tell how deep it was just by looking at it. I was stuck! Pretty embarrassing. Fortunately, I was able to back out of the snowdrift after a few tries and, from that point on, we focused on smaller streets where the snow wasn’t quite so deep.”

In contrast to Kershner’s funny memory, Nipe shared a more sentimental one. “What stays with me is how the large weather events generate community spirit… We ask know we are expected to handle whatever Mother Nature deals us. I’m extremely proud of our efforts and the services we deliver during those difficult events.”

Regardless of what consumes your time this winter, remember to be courtesy and thankful to the snow plow staff who put in a large quantity of hours with lack of sleep and staying away from their families to make road conditions safe for us all.

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