Bennett Holmes founded Rye Beach Landscaping in Exeter, New Hampshire, 22 years ago. It serves the seacoast region of the state with 18 trucks, 12 pieces of equipment and a staff of 30 per storm. Four-fifths of its business is commercial/ residential, and the rest is work for the state. On March 14, Rye Beach handled a storm old-timers say was the worst since 1978. Here is Holmes’s edited account of a very long day:
At 9:34 a.m., the state of New Hampshire calls for our six trucks to report in; they usually call first. The snow is falling at more than 3 inches per hour in the afternoon with high winds: blizzard conditions with 20- foot visibility. And the snow is heavy, like wet mortar.
Another call: The third state truck has broken wipers. Dispatched our road mechanic. At 7 p.m., we make the decision to hold most of our shovel teams until after midnight, when the storm is supposed to ease up.
Another call, tractor broke a driveshaft. We have a spare, and I deliver it and install it; the mechanic is busy with other issues. Another call, fuel required at a site. At 9:23 p.m., we send emails to select customers to advise shoveling work will take longer to complete post-storm.
State Truck 14 calls: Transmission is toast. Contemplate a midstorm transmission swap, then think better of it. Send driver home. I wish we could see where we are going, but it’s blowing so badly I might be in the wrong town and not realize it. I’m dodging downed limbs in the road and watching transformers pop and shower sparks ahead of me.
By midnight the snow has changed to rain and sleet — as if the snow wasn’t heavy enough. One crew is heading to the hotel room for three hours of rest; another will rotate through after that. I grab a nap in the truck for a couple hours.
Morning brings the end of snowfall and the beginning of cleanup work. It takes the rest of the day to make things acceptable and the following day to push back piles, widen walkways and clear low-priority areas we had strategically abandoned midstorm. All the while our mechanic is running around keeping up with repairs: blown hoses, electrical issues, bent steel and cracked welds.
Three days after the main snowstorm and I’m operating on three to four hours of sleep per night, as is most of my lead staff. But we have met expectations, kept a lot of customers happy and found the pavement despite winter’s worst storm in memory. And for some reason we are looking forward to the next storm.
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