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Posted on: December 13, 2019

Snow removal teams prepare for harsh winter

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South Lake Tahoe, CA- We’ve already had a little snow this season, and we know things are just getting started. 

Winter weather means busy season or the folks at public works too, between snowplow operators working to keep the streets clear and folks working hard behind the scenes to keep the equipment up and running they have got their hands full.

“Give us a chance, and we’ll get it done,” said Jerry Heath, Maintenance Manager for the City of South Lake Tahoe. When the snow picks up, Jerry and his team get to work. 

“We run 24-hour shifts, constantly until the streets are full width and it stops snowing. Last year we went quite a few days without a break, no days off, 12-hour days.”

Snowplows are deployed when we get 3 or more inches of snow. Their goal, get the streets clear and keep them that way. With equipment as large as some of the snow removal equipment, they could use your help. 

“Give us a wide birth, these things take up a lot of space on the roads,” said Heath, “They slip on ice, we could slide sideways, backward and forwards, and we stop and back up frequently.”

The city asks people not to park their cars in snow removal areas. They also ask you to keep your garbage cans and mailboxes behind the berms and don’t leave trash in the street. 

But people don’t always listen. When one of these plows hit that stuff, that’s where Phil Harwood comes in. 

“Pieces of steel, chains, mattresses, those are fun. They get wrapped all up in the reels, binds it up, breaks the shear pins, and we have to come out and fix it up,” said Phil Harwood, City Fleet Supervisor, “It’s an awful job, on the side of the road, in the snow.”

Phil and his team are responsible for fixing the equipment that breaks, and that’s no easy task. 

“It could be out for a month, now you’re down a machine, plus thousands of dollars in repairs, man-hours, and time,” Harwood said. 

Earlier this year, City Council spent more than 2 million dollars on new snow removal equipment.  

The new grader has no steering wheel, just joystick-like controls, and upgraded plows and gates to help this equipment stand up to a Tahoe winter. 

“Graders go out, mechanics are here,” Harwood said, “Every hour that they’re out, we’re at the shop. Around the clock.” 

Snow equipment has the right of way when they’re out on the roads, and Heath says that’s for your safety. 

“Yeah, this thing weighs 68 thousand pounds,” Heath said, referring to one of the larger pieces of snow removal equipment, “It won’t feel a car behind it at all.”

When the snow starts to fall, they get to work, but they need your patience because clear roads are safe roads this time of year. 

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