Plowing North Adams' hills can be quite an adventure
NORTH ADAMS -- To snowplow drivers in the Steeple City, the hilly geography is an adventure, not an annoyance.
While out clearing the city streets during Wednesday's storm, Lonny Cimonetti, a 36-year veteran of the public works department, said some trucks make it up a steep hill only to slide back down. It's just something that comes with working in steep terrain.
"You haven't worked here until you end up in a ditch," he said.
One of the hardest streets on his route is Whittlesley Avenue, a short, narrow street off of Massachusetts Avenue. Branching off of it are Russell and Addison streets.
"Ice storms are hard," he said. "During those, all the guys just back up the steep hills."
Paul Markland, manager of the North Adams Highway Department, said Wednesday's snow removal included 24 people using various-sized plow trucks, sidewalk plows and tractors, and shovels.
The city of 13,000 people has 104 miles of road, he said, 208 miles if you count both directions.
Snow plow drivers concentrate on the major roads first, Markland said. Sand usually isn't applied right away, or else it ends up in the gutter, he said. But the city's steepest hills -- Richview Avenue, East Main Street, Pleasant Street, High Street, Rock Street to name a few -- are sanded for residents' safety.
"You just need to keep plowing," Cimonetti said, motioning to compacted snow on Brown Street. "The nice thing about these trucks is the plow is so heavy. But I must've plowed this four times already."
Cimonetti's route, which he started 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, includes Massachusetts Avenue, River Street, Veterans Memorial Drive, State Street, Reservoir Road and Notch Road.
"Every guy has one route they stick to," he said. "That's because they know every manhole cover, every bridge expansion joint, every water shut off ... if you hit one of those, your plow will let you know."
The storm looked like it had tapered off just after noon.
"If this is it, we'll probably be going home by 4 or 5 p.m.," he said.
Cimonetti drives a fluorescent orange, five-ton plow truck made by International, No. 6 in the highway department's fleet.
"This is one of the best trucks they make," he said.
The truck sports an 11-foot plow designed for high-speed plowing, he explained. The curved plow is made to throw snow over a guardrail.
"How fast I go depends," he said while clearing a section of Massachusetts Avenue. "Right now, I'm going about 25 miles per hour."
Attached to the truck is a heavy-duty sander and spreader.
Cimonetti demonstrated a series of levers on the floor next to the gear shift. One lever turns the sander on and off, and another controls the spinner that distributes the sand evenly. Another set adjusts the angle of the plow.
The snow picked up again by 3 p.m., and Cimonetti was less optimistic about being home by 5 p.m. He estimated he had completed his route five times, used close to 40 gallons of diesel fuel, and refilled the sander several times.
"That's pretty much the route," he said as he descended the Route 2 overpass. "Now, we do it all over again."
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