A day in the life of a snowplow operator

Zhaia Mergen
Read Iowa DOT Information Specialist Zhaia Mergen's blog about her observations while riding along with a snowplow operator based out of Central Iowa on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010.


5:20 PM

As we drive NB on I-35 headed towards Ankeny Tim explains that the far righthand lane has snow packed down and as he pushes the snow with his front blade he will move it from side to side to help clear the packed down material. So, not only do drivers need to use caution when driving by a snowplow due to the front plow being wider than the truck, but the plow may also be moving.

5:12 PM

As Tim clears the snow that is covering the dashed lines between the two inside (left) lanes, we are creating a snow cloud.

Drivers should use caution when approaching a snow cloud as they cannot see what it is hiding.

5:10 PM

Drivers should find an alternate route coming west on I-80 before the eastmixmaster. We are currently driving EB on I-80 from E. 14th street and two lanes of I-80 WB are closed and the other two lanes are full of stopped vehicles.

5:07 PM

Nathan asked: Are plow drivers required -- or asked -- to stop and help stranded cars or accidents, or do they simply radio to someone else to help? Or do nothing?

Response to Nathan: Snowplow operators will call 911 when they witness a stranded motorist or accident.

5:06 PM

I-80 is at a stadnstill coming from I-35 SB to I-80 WB. Because traffic is stopped and/or barely moving they are packing down the snow which will cause problems for traffic once it picks up. In other areas where traffic is moving, the vehicles are actually helping out by blowing the snow off of the road surface.

5:02 PM

MM01 asked: Did you know that Interstate 35, from Exit 68 (Iowa 5) to Exit 123 (I-80, I-235) is posted - Travel is not advised, reduced visibility, towing services prohibited? How bad is it?

Response to MM01: This would be the section south and west of the west mixmaster. Eastmaster is exit 137. I wouldn't say it would be a time to drive out here if you don't have to, as far as the ability to drive...I'm just riding. :) I know I would have stayed at home if it weren't for this EXCITING job!

4:58 PM

Tyler asked: How long has Tim been driving a snow plow for the IA DOT? And how does he rate this winter so far to years past?

Response to Tyler: One of my first posts indicated he has been a snowplow operator for 11 years...compared to past years this has been a busy winter, he thinks it has been for the whole state. He thought this december was the second most amount of snow for a long time.

4:55 PM

Chris B asked: If the road is closed by any law enforcement agency, do they let state plows through or are you just like any other motorist and have to wait?

Response to Chris B: Plows are allowed through when a contributing cause is winter weather, like where sand needs to be applied to the road or a hazardous spill must be addressed.

4:47 PM

According to Tim, here in the metro area sometimes traffic isn't too friendly and sometimes they are your friend. He says that sometimes they just go way too fast.

4:42 PM

Nathan P. asked: How close to the road can the blade safely run? I often see plows go by and it doesn't look like they are actually going all the way down to the pavement surface. Does the driver regulate the height or is it automatic?

Response to Nathan P.: The driver regulates the blade. Actually he has his hand on the control the whole time unless he has to push a button for something else.