When a heavy overnight snowfall is cleared from Edina streets before you leave for work, school or a doctor’s appointment, you may not stop to consider how it happens. Fortunately, there are people who do think about how it all happens and are proud to tell us a bit about how they manage it.
Brian Olson is director of public works for the city of Edina. He supervises five departments, including the streets department, which is responsible for snowplowing. Olson says plowing is not an easy job and he has a great deal of respect for the hard work the drivers do all winter long. Nearly every shift driver deals with the white-knuckle pressure of sometimes nerve-racking driving.
To clear routes, plows travel in dangerous conditions, sometimes with poor visibility and often in predawn hours. Drivers must get close enough to the curb to clear the entire street without knocking over anyone’s mailbox. There are also long hours. During a big snowstorm, drivers know they may be on the road for a long time.
“Imagine driving the five hours to International Falls under stressful and dangerous conditions,” Olson says. “You arrive emotionally drained and exhausted—and then you turn around and drive back.” Routes sometimes have to be plowed twice when snow falls faster than plows can clear and salt.
Edina mechanics handle the time-consuming transformation of trucks from summer debris collection vehicles to winter snowplows. Plows are attached to the trucks beginning in October in order to be ready by November. Each truck must be taken out of service to get ready for plowing, so not all can be done at the same time.
Travis Gossard has been a snowplow driver for the city of Edina for five years. He likes his job but acknowledges it can be stressful and that people are not always courteous when they encounter a slow-moving snowplow when they’re trying to get to work in the morning.
“I would have to say the best part of my job as a plow operator is knowing that you are making the roads safer for the residents and community as a whole,” Gossard says. “In Edina there is a very high standard when it comes to our snow removal operations. Our residents have high expectations, and we do our best every snow event to provide them with exceptional service. Every operator in our fleet is fully aware of the difference they are making in the lives of those who travel our roadways, and they take a great deal of pride in clearing snow off of the streets of Edina.”
Snowplow trivia from Edina Public Works
- There are 25 plow routes and five sidewalk routes.
- There are 30 routes; each route has a specific driver assigned to it.
- The City of Edina purchased 2,500 tons of salt last year.
- Plowing can begin as early as 2 a.m. The goal is to time the plowing so that streets are clear before homeowners begin clearing their driveways.
- Plowing starts when there are 1.5 inches of snow on the ground, 1 inch if it is still snowing.
- To clear all 30 routes when there is 2 inches of snow accumulation can take 6 hours.
- Winter snowfall totals for Edina average about 60 inches a year.