"Twenty-something years ago, we had 47 guys in the department, today we have 34 men," said Woodson. "In that same span of time, the town has grown tremendously and today we have more than 220 miles of town roads, compared to about 180 miles back then," Woodson said.
In addition to town-owned roads, whenever there's a snowfall of more than three inches, the highway department plows the town's private roads as well, to ensure adequate access for emergency vehicles and municipally contracted garbage carters. That brings the total to more than 500 miles of roadway, Woodson said.
"Really, you need to talk about lane miles," he added. "Each road has two lanes. So for 220 miles of roadway, you have 440 lane miles that have to be plowed."
Add high winds and blowing snow into the mix, along with stranded motorists that his crews have to pull out, parked cars and other obstructions in the public right-of-way, and diverting plow trucks to ride ahead of ambulances and emergency responders during a storm — to ensure their ability to get to a call and transport a patient to the hospital — and his depleted crew has a really hard time keeping up, Woodson said.
"The guys all work hard and we're doing the best we can, we really are, but in heavy snowfalls accompanied by high winds, it's not a pretty picture," Woodson said.
The highway superintendent says he wishes people would be a little more patient with the process.
"Everyone is in rush to get out, even during the worst of the storm. Where are they going and what's so urgent that they need to risk their lives, risk getting stuck, and, in the end, make it much harder for my guys to do their job," Woodson said.
Gajowski said highway plow crews pull out dozens, sometimes hundreds, of stuck cars in every snowstorm, and it's a tremendous drain on the already short-handed department.
"It takes up a lot of our time during a storm," Gajowski said.
Woodson said that under optimal conditions, without strong blowing winds, the highway department can clear all the roads in town within seven hours, where there's up to 10 inches of accumulating snow. Over 10 inches, or with the addition of strong winds, and things get dicey, he said.
"It's Mother Nature," Woodson said. "Our job is to do battle with Mother Nature, and Mother Nature always wins," Woodson laughed. "You can only do the best you can with what you have."
Next: How the highway crews approach plowing the town's roads