The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

January 7, 2014

County employees working around the clock to keep roads safe

ANDERSON, Ind. — The snowplow fishtailed slightly as Gerald Imel carefully positioned the dump truck’s v-shaped plow near the edge of the road.

“They will slide, get stuck and they can roll on their side,” said Imel, general foreman for the Madison County Highway Department.

One of the biggest hazards, however, is avoiding other vehicles on the road.

“If you can stay home, stay home and let us do our job,” he said.

Moments after he said it, a passenger truck — equipped with a small snowplow — careened over a hill on a road limited to single-lane use because of the snow.

Both drivers braked, but the vehicles still collided. No one was injured and both vehicles drove away from the scene, but it was a close call.

“People just don’t slow down,” Imel said. “They are driving the speed limit, but the speed limit is only for ideal road conditions.”

While vehicles can create an unsafe situation for snowplow drivers, it is only one of the many ways that plowing snow can be dangerous.

“I don’t think about the dangers,” Imel said. “I have a job to do so I just do it.”

Earlier that day, Imel helped pull a stranded motorist out of a ditch. A long gash now runs down the right side of his cheek where he was injured in the process.

“We are not going to leave them there,” he said. “We are going to get them out and to a safe place or where they can get to a safe place. We are going to pull them out — or dig them out — and get them rolling again.”

Driving through the country roads, deep tire tracks marred the snow-covered roads in squiggly lines, but they were quickly erased by the blade of Imel’s plow. It sliced through the snow like a knife cutting through melted butter.

“Up by Alex and Summitville, they have seen drifts that are 10 feet high,” he said.

The windows were icing over inside the dump truck and at times the snow whipping around the plow made visibility impossible.

Imel said he is working 12-hour shifts in these conditions.

In all, he said there are 13 townships, 300 subdivisions and more than 900 road miles that are plowed by the Madison County Highway Department.

The county also uses snowplows to assist emergency personnel during heavy snowstorms. Snowplow drivers often have to clear the roads to and from the homes if the roads are impassible, he said.

Driving between 15 and 18 miles an hour, Imel said it is less than an ideal situation for everyone involved.

“People don’t know what we go through to make the roads safe for them to travel on,” he said.

Dennis McNally, who has been snowed in for three days on North County Road 300 East, said he appreciated the work being done to clear his road.

“They can’t do everyone at once,” he said, “but there has been at least one snowplow down my road already.”

Now McNally just has to figure out how he is going to get to the road in front of his property.

“Our problem is we have a 600-foot driveway and I can’t even get out of my garage,” he said.

Gerald Bodkin, who lives on West County Road 375 North, was also happy with the work of the county workers.

“They did a pretty good job,” he said.

Like Traci Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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