Cape plow drivers put in long hours to clear away snow

Though the snow is letting up on Cape Cod, many snowplow drivers there are still rolling, engaged in a grueling battle to clear roads and driveways, the drivers said in telephone interviews.

With the exception of a 15-minute sandwich break, Erick Cooper of Cooper Landscape Inc. in Harwich has been removing snow since 6 p.m. Tuesday, he said. Up to 10 inches of snow were recorded on Cape Cod as of this morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Cooper said the storm, which began Tuesday afternoon, was particularly challenging because of the wind. Gusts blew today between 20 and 25 miles per hour, the weather service said.

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“You clear an area and it looks perfect. And then an hour later it is like you weren’t even there,” said Cooper.

Jeff Eldredge, from Starboard Side Landscaping in South Dennis, said he was familiar with the problem.

“The wind does what the wind does,” he said. “It really changes the dynamic of things.”

Eldredge said he had been operating his plow since noon Tuesday, with only an hourlong break. To stay focused, he drinks many cups of coffee and makes sure there are two people in the truck at the same time, he said.

“You have to watch each other and keep talking,” he said. “You have to stay alert.”

Cooper said he took a different approach — sticking his head out the window into the cold weather.

“That’ll wake you up,” he said.

At MCE Dirtworks Inc. in Orleans, drivers rotate throughout the storm and take four-hour naps between long shifts, said Meika Wahlstrom, whose husband owns the company.

“Of course, it gets stressful,” said Wahlstrom. “But we have a schedule now. The guys are used to it.”

The company has had 10 drivers out on the road throughout today, said Wahlstrom. She said they all keep in contact with one another to avoid drowsy driving.

Chris Turner, a plow operator at Forest Keepers Tree Care in Hyannis, said communication is key.

“We have to work together,” he said. “If you need a break, you need to let someone know.”

Turner said snow removal can be physically and mentally demanding — maneuvering the large trucks in the inclement weather can be challenging. But for him, caffeine is a cure-all.

“All I need is a cup of coffee on the road,” he said. “Then I’ll be OK.”

For some, snowstorms are all part of a routine.

“It snows up here and we take care of it,” said David Cummings from DC Tree Services in Marstons Mills. “You get used to it.”