comes out of hibernation
Winter returned to Idaho in December and it’s been vastly different than the conditions motorists grew accustomed to the past few years. The first snowfall in northern and eastern Idaho did not provide a hint of what was to come.
December gave way to January and ordinary gave way to extraordinary.
Avalanches beset Idaho’s highways… among them U.S. 12, U.S. 89, U.S. 95, Idaho 21 and Idaho 55. Snow blankets the mountain passes, agricultural fields and plateaus. Relentless wind shifts the snow like desert sands, but instead of rolling dunes, there are fingers of snowdrifts defying traditional plows.
And from border to border highways are filled with motorists who want to move from where they are to where they want to go with the least amount of interruption and inconvenience.
“Winter” and “travel” become adversaries. ITD maintenance crews serve as the intermediary, the link that enables travel, despite winter.
Snowplow operators know the meaning of sacrifice. Days away from family. 12 to 15-hour shifts. Roadside pullouts for cold coffee and a quick sandwich. Stubborn highways that drift shut as soon as the plow passes through. Blizzards rob them of visibility. Tired, cold, over-worked equipment refuses to cooperate. Conditions conspire to complicate their lives.
It is winter again in Idaho.
“We haven’t seen these kinds of conditions in at least 10 years,” says ITD Director Pam Lowe. “In some areas, like District 1, snowfall is of record proportions. Despite all of the conditions that seem to be working against us, people generally are able to reach their destination.
“That is no accident. The transportation department is blessed with a multitude of dedicated maintenance workers who put aside personal comforts, time with family and their own commitments to plow our highways and apply sand and deicer,” Lowe adds. “Our maintenance crews work long shifts and get precious little sleep. Their job is physically and mentally exhausting. Too often it’s taken for granted.”
Yet, they press on.
“On behalf of the transportation board, the department and the citizens of Idaho, I want to express how grateful I am for their sacrifices,” Lowe says. “They have done an incredible job this winter, and we’re all safer for their efforts.”
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Photos: Shoshone County Sheriff and his patrol vehicle are dwarfed by snow along Idaho 4 in northern Idaho (top); the highway has become nearly a tunnel in the snow (bottom).