Out of 27 pieces of equipment in the Town of Tonawanda’s snow-clearing arsenal, 20 plows and front-end loaders were on the road this afternoon, said Highway Superintendent William E. Swanson.
“We started first thing this morning as soon as it hit around 6 a.m. and we’re going to go around the clock,” he said. “The morning shift is on until 6 p.m. followed by another shift from 6 p.m. until midnight and an overnight shift from midnight until 7:30 a.m., Swanson said, adding that he himself would probably put in between 16 and 18 hours today.
“Because it’s during the day there’s a lot of vehicles out there,” he said. “We tell our drivers to go a little slower, take it easy. You’ve got a lot of parked cars. Just watch the traffic and take your time.”
The department is responsible for clearing 414 lane miles of town-owned roads and 63 miles of Erie County roads in the town.
This winter’s constant onslaught has strained the town’s budgets.
Swanson said he has already spent 92 percent — $320,000 — of funds budgeted for snow removal this year.
Also, in a normal winter the town uses about 7,000 tons of road salt.
But, this year they’ve already used 11,500 tons at a total cost of $275,000.
Vehicles constantly on the road at times have needed quick repairs. A truck this morning was taken out of service after it hit a concrete slab damaging the beam and cables that secure the wing plow to the side. Mechanics early this afternoon were fixing the damage and hoped to have it back on the road by about 3 p.m.
“Especially with a snowstorm, any of our snow equipment we try to get out as quick as possible,” Swanson said.
Other town employees were also working outside in the blizzard conditions.
A few blocks east of the highway barn on Woodward Avenue near Military Road, crews from the town’s water department were repairing the second water main break reported today.
“It’s been a busy day, unfortunately,” said laborer Paul Catalano while an excavator ripped up the ground nearby.
In fact, this whole winter has taken its toll on the area’s underground infrastructure with an unusually high number of breaks reported.
“It’s been the toughest winter we’ve had so far,” said Catalano, a 10-year veteran of the department.
Crews said there’s not much they can do to stay warm beyond wearing multiple layers of clothes.
“It can be pretty miserable but none of us are office people,” said maintenance worker Sal Sidoti. “We just can’t sit in that cubicle.
It’s bad for two, three months out of the year but other than that it’s great. You’re out in the sun all the time. So you’ve got to take the good with the bad.”