EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 20, 2013

Editorial: Plow performance needs improvement

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Tuesday afternoon’s snowstorm turned the evening commute into a nightmare across the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire. While the storm’s timing was terrible, road crews across the region could have done a better job.

Drivers across the region are complaining about the awful road conditions that turned commutes that normally run a half-hour or so into hours-long white-knuckle adventures. Speeds on Interstate 93 in Southern New Hampshire were down to 5 mph as drivers struggled to find the travel lanes.

“I saw a salt truck out and he got off at Exit 4 and his plow was up and there were two spinouts, both around the Windham-Derry area,” Shaun Dorrington posted on Facebook. “New Hampshire troopers were helping drivers. It was a mess and that was around 4 p.m.”

“It took my daughter almost two hours to travel from Concord Hospital to Derry,” Debby McGrath said on Facebook. “She said it was her worst trip ever.”

In Lawrence, a police officer out on patrol at about 9 p.m. Tuesday described the road conditions as “too terrible to be driving” — except for all-terrain vehicles, whose drivers were brazen as they made numerous illegal recreational rides on the city’s snow-covered major roads.

“They’ve been wreaking havoc all night and nobody can catch them,” the officer said.

Police were unable to catch the illegal riders — until one plowed into a snowbank and wrecked his ATV.

The weekend storm that dumped 10 inches of snow across the region was a picnic by comparison. Crews had the roads well prepared and the lack of commuter traffic made clearing streets and highways easy.

But Tuesday’s storm really ramped up around 4 p.m. and continued late into the evening. Drivers who did not heed warning to leave work early found themselves crawling along snow-packed roads with plows unable to get through.

“The timing of the storm was not the best,” Salem public works director Rick Russell told reporter John Toole.

While it is next to impossible to plow a highway clogged with cars, road crews could have done a better job elsewhere.

In Derry, plow operators seems to have little care for people’s property. Resident Lori Trickel said she lost a mailbox to a plow driver in the weekend storm.

“I went out and yelled at him,” Trickel said.

“Deal with it, lady,” came the plow driver’s response, she said.

“He could have at least said he was sorry,” Trickel said.

Derry resident Cheryl Atkinson had an unwelcome encounter with a sidewalk plow operator. The plow damaged the fence in front of her home.

“He destroyed my Christmas decorations. I’m not a happy camper,” Atkinson said. “The fence is hanging. It’s, like, bent.”

People can call the public works department in those cases, but Director Mike Fowler said the town’s policy is not to replace items damaged within eight feet of the pavement.

Winter is just getting started — the season does not officially begin until tomorrow.

These first two snowstorms of the season put road clearing crews to the test. We hope their performance will improve over the rest of the season.