Dual snowstorms boon for Berkshire plow drivers
OTIS -- The snow was falling fast outside Gary J. O’Brien Property Services early Saturday afternoon while workers scurried about, preparing their trucks to adequately salt, sand and plow snowy roads in almost a dozen Berkshire communities.
"It snowed the other day, and it’s snowing today, so it’s looking better than last year," said Gary J. O’Brien, who founded his business in 2005. "It could snow again. It’s hard to judge that."
In the past week, Berkshire County has seen anywhere from 4 inches of accumulated snowfall to the 20 inches reported in Savoy, said Ian Lee, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service out of Albany.
Compared to this time last year, which Lee said had no reported snowfall, plow and snow removal services are booming.
"Unfortunately we were forced to do layoffs last year," said Kristen O’Brien, Gary’s wife and business co-owner. "It was hard. There were a few layoffs in November, but not as many."
The O’Brien’s property service has 353 residential clients and 108 commercial clients in 11 Berkshire communities, from Sandisfield to Pittsfield. All of the county’s Big Y supermarkets, some Friendly’s and McDonald’s restaurants are just a few of their commercial clients.
Four to 6 inches of snow were forecast Saturday to cover roads that had just been plowed after Wednesday and Thursday’s storm, which dumped at least 6 inches of snow in parts of the county.
When the fresh snow started falling, Gary O’Brien’s cellphone rang constantly and workers darted around the grounds and into trucks. He has trucks stationed in each one of the 11 communities that the O’Briens serve.
"Three hours before the storm starts, every truck comes in, and it goes through the garage to make sure it’s running, make sure the fuel’s OK, and make sure it’s loaded with salt," Kristen O’Brien said.
Smaller businesses, like Berkshire Snow Removal in Lanesborough, are also rebounding after last year, when the only notable snowfall was on Halloween.
Jonathan Duda co-owns Berkshire Snow Removal with his wife, Lisa Duda. There are only two employees, John Johnston and Carl Smith. Duda has three plow trucks for about 25 residential clients, most of them living on Brodie Mountain or Bailey roads.
"Most of the driveways have steep hills to get to the house, and it’s treacherous," Duda said. "Two nights ago we had to pull my truck out sideways on Noppet Road."
Duda went out once Saturday morning to plow nearby streets, but went back out to Bailey Road around 1:30 p.m. to plow a driveway for a brand-new client.
"He waited three days, so it was pretty well packed down," Duda said. "But I got it out."
Snow was still falling in the Berkshires after 5 p.m. There were reports of cars sliding off the road throughout the county, according to dispatchers, but no serious damage or injuries were reported.
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