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Billings snow plow drivers working overtime to clear streets

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Posted at 12:43 AM, Feb 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 12:08:48-05

BILLINGS - Many of those tasked with plowing the streets have been working 12-hour shifts and around the clock for at least the last couple of nights and days.

They start their day at the Billings Operations Center.

Typically, snowplow drivers will travel about 100 miles during a 12-hour shift, sometimes working in the worst of conditions

"Long hours sometimes, but not too terrible," said Mike Lynn, senior equipment operator for the city of Billings.

Lynn drove the first truck in a three-truck team on Tuesday.

"Kind of keep it off the sidewalk and lay it right in the gutter for the most part,” Lynn said. “There is spillover. It's hard to control the snow but we try not to bury sidewalks as best we can."

It's a similar choreography for five-man crews working the wider streets where they move the snow to the middle.

While plowing they also drop sand and gravel to make for better traction.

"We've just tried to be as efficient as we can that way,” said Derick Miller, traffic division manager for the city of Billings. “If you just plow, then you’ve got to come back and sand later. And we've got too many lane miles to take care of, to be repeating the same steps on the same street."

Miller said drivers must clear about 1,200 lane miles in Billings.

About 19 had been scheduled to work on Tuesday night and Miller keeps a close watch on the weather to make sure crews are ready when the snow accumulates.

"If we miss it by an hour from when it started snowing till the time we get crews in there, that's two hours wasted, where we're behind the storm,” Miller said. “And we hate that, so we try to be as proactive and stay as far ahead of the storm as we can."

With this storm, it's not expected that residential streets will need plowing.

But when they are plowed residents can check the map on the city's website to find out when crews expect to be in their neighborhood.

But some residential streets still get plowed.

"Residential but we call it a priority two,” Lynn said about 19th Street West, north of Grand Avenue. “This particular route is a route to the fire station."

And in the end, they like keeping the roads safe for the people of Billings.

"Oh yeah, it's an incredibly satisfying job," Miller said.

"You feel like you're helping out a lot with the slick roads and stuff," Lynn said.