Man standing with snow removal equipment

Behind the Plow

A great deal of planning, preparation, strategy and scheduling goes into preparing for the winter season and City snow operations, but have you ever thought about the people behind the plow?

Plowing can be a tricky business, and safety is always the main priority.

During winter storms, the Department of Public Works (DPW) can deploy as many as 150 pieces of equipment and 200 people (including contractors) to clear 125 miles of roadways and bike lanes, and nearly 25 miles of sidewalks and pedestrian paths throughout the city.

Plow Truck
Kyle Klein Photography

In this issue, we take a peek behind the scenes at the extensive prep work and long staff hours that go into snow operations. Master Mechanic Sydney Cox (pictured above), who has been with DPW for 43 years, says winter equipment preparation begins as early as September. Cox will spend many hours with his crew in the DPW garage, repairing and maintaining vehicles, plows, salters, and other snow clearing equipment.

“We had seven mechanics working non-stop to ensure everything was ready for the first snowfall,” said Cox. “Our goal is to keep equipment working and be able to make emergency repairs on the road.”

Around the Clock Operation

As one of only three female plow drivers at DPW, Ann Ferraro was just coming off an all-night snow operations shift when we caught up with her. The weather predictions called for ice buildup overnight so Ann was out salting the roads prior to the morning commute to work and school.

Ann Ferraro
Ann Ferraro

“Safety is always the main priority and you really have to know what you are looking for, especially black ice,” said Ferraro.

Ferraro’s regular job is as a Working Supervisor at the Cambridge Cemetery. But working on the snow rotation can mean missing family dinners, time with her granddaughter, and almost her own surprise birthday party. But it’s all part of the job, and one that Ann says she loves.

“With predicted storms, you may have advance notice, but weather patterns can change quickly  and you have to be able to go with the flow,” Ferraro said. “Snow operations is a huge team effort.”

Safety is Main Priority

Plowing can be a tricky business, Ferraro went on to explain. “Depending on how much snow there is and how quickly it falls, you can plow a street and come back to it later and it looks like it was never touched.

The City’s first priority is to clear main arteries before moving on to secondary roadways. Unfortunately, when clearing a street, plows can push snow back into a driveway or against a car.

“It is challenging and residents sometimes get upset if I inadvertently push snow back into an area they had just cleared,” said Ferraro.

“I stop when I can and try to explain what I am doing and why, and usually they will understand better how it works behind the plow.”

We all have a shared responsibility for keeping our community safe and accessible during winter weather. For you, your neighbors, people with strollers or using wheelchairs, and the many people in Cambridge who walk, please do your part.

Stay updated during winter storms and sign up for City snow alerts through the Cambridge Snow Center, CambridgeMA.GOV/Snow.

Published by

Lee Gianetti

Director of Communications and Community Relations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.