Snow plow drivers learn from snow storm

COLUMBIA CITY — Whitley County Highway Department Superintendent Michael Barton told the Whitley County Council Tuesday his staff went to school in the recent severe snow storm.“Right off the bat we had two trucks stuck,” said Barton of last week’s storm that gripped much of the Midwest.“It got a little tense there for a moment with 30 to 40 cars stuck that first night.”As the snow began to blanket the area, the “essential” personnel from the county and from Columbia City and other outlying towns rolled up sleeves and got to work.The county’s highway department drivers crawled up behind the wheel and headed out into the flurries.As one truck began to slide on slick pavement, its load of sand shifted, sending the truck onto its side.Remarkably, Barton told the council the truck was back in action sometime later during the emergency.“We got through the night,” said Barton. “There were seven or eight guys who were up 36 hours.”Barton said the biggest challenge faced by the crews was inexperience in dealing with snow in the quantities seen last week.“If you’re out there pushing back seven- or eight-foot snow drifts and you’ve never done that before, you can get stuck,” he said.Barton said he was not driving a snow plow during the blizzard of 1978, but was “riding shotgun with a guy to keep him awake.”One driver in Whitley County did fall asleep, according to Barton, who said slamming into a seven- foot drift woke the driver up.“It woke him up right away,” said Barton. “He rolled down his window and didn’t have a problem after that.”