By Marjorie Nesin
---- — GLOUCESTER — Two dump trucks and a wheel loader rumbled and purred in the center of Prospect Street, between Maplewood Avenue and Pleasant Street, the loader driver scraping mounds of snow banks into the middle of the road then scooping and dropping them into the dump truck to be hauled off to Stage Fort Park in the afternoon Monday.
Gloucester residents can expect to see more of the heavy equipment, paired with snow plows and snow blowers in the coming days and weeks, according to Department of Public Works Director Mike Hale. Hale and his crews have been working nearly non-stop since the blizzard, named Nemo began dropping between 20 and 24 inches of snow on Cape Ann Friday.
”This is taxing on these guys,” Hale said. “I can’t make people appreciate anything, but if they understand what we’re doing, hopefully that will have some effect ... Most residents recognize that there’s two feet of snow and everybody’s doing the best they can.”
Hale said most of the crews worked in plowing and clearing roadways from clocking in at 7 a.m. Friday morning to midnight Sunday, taking only cat naps in chairs during quick breaks. Many shuffled home for a night’s sleep Sunday at midnight only to be back at it 7 a.m. Monday. And the pattern will continue for at least a few days, with crews working through the day then returning for a night shift of snow removal.
Hale asks that residents be patient as public works tackles the damage and snowy remains issue by issue, prioritizing the snow removal and damage repair projects. While every public road in the city should be clear enough for careful travel — and schools in the city were expected to reopen today — many of the smaller, lesser used roadways are narrowed by snow banks on either side and may be more slippery than main roads.
“Our primary concern is making the primary roads wide enough to function safely. A local road, as much as people hate to see it, can’t be a priority until we have the big ones addressed,” he said.
Main roads were the first priority for clearing, and a project like fixing the Lanes Cove Seawall, 30 feet of which dropped off into the ocean Saturday morning, or rebuilding the Good Harbor footbridge that was torn apart in the raging winds, might not see repair efforts for weeks, depending on urgency.
”We’ll have most of the areas addressed in the next few days, but depending on the temperatures, there’s enough to do out there that it’ll take us a couple of weeks,” Hale said. “We’ll catch up this week, but there’s just so many areas to grab that it’s going to take a little time.”
Hale said, however, that residents will start seeing progress soon, if they have not already noted the disappearing piles. On Main Street many of the parking meters were tucked away in snowbanks Monday afternoon, with just a few dotting the top of the mounds, accompanied by the tip tops of fence posts.
“By (Tuesday) morning, a portion of Main Street will look different,” Hale said.
With snow overflow hoarding most of the downtown parking spaces Monday, some shops and restaurants remained closed and handfuls of area residents elected to get around by foot, rather than in vehicles. Vehicle traffic followed groups of teenagers and lone and paired adults as the people shuffled along the roadways, heading for cleared sidewalks when the opportunity arose.
Police Chief Leonard Campanello is warning drivers to be aware of residents who must resort to walking on sidewalks and urging people to avoid walking in the roadway when at all possible.
”Stay off the roadways as much as possible and allow the DPW to take care of the sidewalks over the next few days,” Campanello warned pedestrians.
And, he said, “To motorists, be aware the storm has created a difficult situation for all of us and be aware that pedestrians might be in the roadway.”
In the meantime, any driver who does snatch up a parking spot, can rest their vehicle there free of charge at least until the city’s state of emergency is lifted, according to Campanello. The chief said there is no predetermined time to lift the state of emergency, but when city officials see fit to do so, they will and parking meters and metered lots will be charging again.
“We’re going to follow the lead of the state,” Campanello said. “We’re going to watch how we’re doing with cleanup and how safe it is out there, then lift the state of emergency when it’s appropriate.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.