LEWISTON — The snow was so deep Monday that it pushed Jeff Ricker’s plow truck to the other side of the road, he said during a ride-along with a reporter.

In some places there was so much snow the truck couldn’t even push it, he said.

While many families in Maine were waking up to open Christmas presents Monday, Lewiston Public Works crews were out clearing over a foot of snow from the roads.

The snow was so deep that Ricker had to go down some roads three or four times, he said.

“We’ve had four storms and you can see the roads getting narrow already,” he said.

Thankfully by 2 p.m. he could see the sun coming out and the snow starting to slow down. “That’s good. I always like to see that.”


Ricker has been with Public Works for 22 years, plowing and treating the roads during the winter and sweeping and repairing equipment during the warmer months.

He said Christmas worked out OK with his family: They celebrated Sunday.

Ricker worked from 8:30 a.m. Monday until his 16 hours were up, plowing and treating his run, which includes residential roads off Main Street up to the Greene town line.

“That’s the longest we can drive,” Ricker said. Then I go home for eight and then come back in.”

Ricker said he lives out of town, “so I come back in after eight hours clocked out, not eight hours being home, then come back in on probably four hours of sleep. That’s the part of the job that sucks.” 

He said that during most storms he’s out for the whole 16 hours, “especially a storm that lingers.”


The department has two teams: the A Team and the B Team, and each can work up to 16 hours at a time.

Ricker said it was snowing so hard Monday morning that his wipers were built up and he could hardly see.

Public Works Director Dave Jones asked people to stay off the roads during the afternoon, when there were “whiteout” conditions. 

“I’m going 5 mph this morning because I can’t see what’s going on, and the guy behind me had his hands out the window yelling at me,” Ricker said. “If I can’t see I want to be taking my time. I couldn’t even see if someone was walking on the side of the road. Some people don’t even use their headlights, so I flick my lights at them, but they still don’t get it.”

Ricker said he’s constantly looking out of all the truck’s mirrors and rearview camera to make sure no one is sneaking around him.

According to WGME meteorologist Adam Esptein, the Christmas snowstorm dropped 12½ inches in Lewiston and 14½ in Auburn. Norway got 8.3 inches.


National Weather Service staff in Cumberland County measured a 3.7-inch-per-hour snowfall rate just after 10:30 a.m. Monday. Southern areas got the most snow, with 13 inches in New Gloucester, 10½ in Gray and 12½ in Portland.

“We got a lot snow, but I’d still rather have this kind of snow because it’s a fast-moving storm,” Ricker said, “because when I’m done with my run, I’m done. But when you have slow ones with only a couple inches I have to go back and rescrape it and rescrape it.”

Because Ricker’s run is mostly residential, he doesn’t see as much of the “crazy stuff” that happens on the main roads.

He said they have more things happen because people want to pass or get right on your bumper.

“The traffic coming, they don’t give you a break. They get right behind you,” he said.

The plow trucks often have to back up to make turns, but Ricker said other drivers don’t usually give them time to do that.


He did say that residential roads tend to be more difficult to plow because plow truck operators have to worry about cars on the sides of the roads.

Ricker said he saw a car half out of its driveway Monday morning and half into the road on College Street. Once he got to the car, he could see it was pulled out so the family could shovel the driveway, but the car was blocking half of the road.

“A lot of time when you have people plowing their driveways, they don’t give you a break,” he said. “You’d think they’d let you come in and do your job, but they don’t. A lot of them don’t.” 

He said it isn’t all bad, though.

“Some people are really nice and they’ll ask if I want coffee or food. It’s nice. It feels like some people really appreciate what you’re doing,” Ricker said.

He said one time a woman chased down his truck to give him a chocolate cake she had made.


Lewiston Highway Operations Manager John Elie said Public Works hooks everything up a couple of days before the storm.

He said they start with sand and salt, and then once there’s an inch of snow on the ground, they call in the plows. “By the time they get in there’s an inch and a half to two inches,” he said.

“If the storm winds down at 3 p.m. we’ll probably clean up another four to six hours, which means rescraping and all of that,” Elie said.

He said sidewalks don’t get done until the storm is over because the momentum from the plows throws snow onto the sidewalks.

Lewiston Public Works is responsible for plowing about 400 lane miles of street and 53 miles of sidewalk, Elie said.

When it isn’t snowing, Public Works does snow removal from smaller roads, dead-end streets and sidewalks, and plows out the fire departments.


In the spring and summer they work on street sweeping and yard repairs in addition to working on the trucks for the next winter.

“A lot of times for the first snowstorm the ground isn’t frozen, so you might get too close to someone’s lawn and rip it up,” Ricker said. “And people get upset, but you have to push the snow back as far as possible.” 

Jeff Ricker clears the icy build-up from his plow truck’s windshield on Christmas morning. Ricker has worked for Lewiston Public Works for 22 years. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

A snow shoveler watches the plow truck go by on Christmas morning in Lewiston. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Jeff Ricker, driving a plow truck for Lewiston Public Works on Christmas morning, keeps an eye on his surroundings while adjusting his plow blades and maneuvering his truck through the snowy streets of Lewiston. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.