AUBURN — With 92 inches of snow as of Wednesday, plow crews are putting in long hours — and racking up a lot of overtime.

“It’s been crazy; very, very busy,” said Jim Richardson, one of 46 Auburn Public Services employees who plow.  “There’s a lot of snow. We’re running out of room for it on the sides of the streets.”

Since the Jan. 27 blizzard that dumped 26 inches, Richardson has had two days off.

The blizzard was followed by more storms a few days apart.

“There’s been no lag time,” said Auburn Public Services Director Denis D’Auteuil. “It’s required us to keep our guys on 16-hour shifts. Every time we started to make headway, another storm would come.”

Since Jan. 27, most of Richardson’s workdays have been 16 hours, starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m.


When he works a 16-hour day, that leaves him with eight hours off.

“People don’t understand that when these guys leave here after 16 hours, they’ve got to go home and shovel their own driveway, clean off their own roofs,” said Kevin Doyle, an operations manager for Auburn Public Services.

By the time Richardson gets home and shovels his driveway and steps, “you’re not going to bed until 1 in the morning,” he said. “You’ve got to be back here for 7 a.m. People wonder why we give them funny looks when they throw their shovels in the air or throw snow back in the road.”

Richardson spoke Wednesday before it started snowing, again.

His own driveway and yard in Turner are not in good shape, he said. He has to clear paths to the shed and the oil tank. “I live near a bunch of fields. All this blowing snow has not helped,” he said. 

He hasn’t seen much of his daughters in recent weeks, but he’s quick to smile about the snow. He likes the overtime pay. “This is our money-making season,” he said. 


If it’s going to snow, “I prefer the big storms,” Richardson said. “If we’re going to get it, let’s get it all at once. It takes as much manpower to do a one-inch storm as a foot storm.”

In addition to long hours, plow drivers face the wrath of unhappy residents who’ve just cleared their driveways only to have the municipal plow roll by leaving a fresh pile.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Richardson said. “The snow’s got to go somewhere.” 

Another problem is tailgaters, he said. “When you have to stop to back up, they’re right there. We can’t go anywhere if somebody’s stuck behind us.”

The newer trucks have cameras. When a motorist is too close, “their headlights are pointed right at the camera,” he said. “It lights up the cab.”

They tend to be older drivers, Richardson said. “They feel like they’ve got to be Dale Earnhardt out there, cruising down the road. I’ve seen guys in their 70s giving me the one-finger salute flying by me doing 60. I’m doing 20.”


It doesn’t feel good, he said.

But this year with the heavy snow there’s been more public support, D’Auteuil said. Comments on social media have been “overwhelming,” he said.

At homes on a few streets, including Gamage Avenue, people have spray-painted “We love APW” on snowbanks. 

“It really can be a thankless job at times,” D’Auteuil said. “When these guys get compliments, it means a lot.”

In any winter, people are more friendly and cooperative at the beginning, Doyle said.

“You go down the road, people will move over. They’ll wave,” he said. Two months later, some of those smiles disappear. Because of all the storms, snow fatigue is worse this year.


“They’re getting tired of it,” Doyle said. “We understand.”

As for Richardson, he’s hoping to get Saturday off. “It will be a daddy day,” he said with a smile. He’ll shovel his yard — and sleep. 

Hours worked by Auburn Public Works plow guy Jim Richardson:

Jan. 27 — 16 hours

Jan. 28 — 16 hours

Jan. 29 — 16 hours


Jan. 30 — 16 hours

Jan. 31 — 12 hours

Feb. 1 — OFF

Feb. 2 — 16 hours

Feb. 3 — 16 hours

Feb. 4 — 16 hours


Feb. 5 — 16 hours

Feb. 6 — 8 hours

Feb. 7 — OFF

Feb. 8 — 16 hours

Feb. 9 — 16 hours

Feb. 10 — 16 hours


Feb. 11 — 8 hours

Feb. 12 — 16 hours

Feb. 13 — 8 hours

Feb. 14 — 8 hours

Feb. 15 — 5 hours

Feb. 16 — 16 hours


Feb. 17 — 16 hours

Total hours worked since Jan. 27: 273

Source: Auburn Public Works

Plowing hazards

Parked cars: Some people ignore parking bans and leave their vehicles on the street. 

Mailboxes, basketball hoops: Plow crews can’t always see mailboxes with snowbanks so large.

Driveway tip: When clearing snow from driveways, homeowners should pile snow at the outer driveway edge of the direction of the plow truck. That way the snow you’ve shoveled isn’t pushed back into your driveway. 

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