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Gillette's Streets Crew Keeps Town Moving After Storm

Catherine Wheeler
The Gillette streets crew cleans up Gillette Avenue in downtown Gillette after this week's winter snowstorm on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The night crew started around 7:00 p.m.

This week's snowstorm brought several inches of snow and snow drifts between three and six feet high in areas of Wyoming. On Thursday morning, Gillette residents started to dig themselves out, and downtown Gillette's parking was impossible. City crews had to wait until Thursday night in order to address the problem.

Jeremy Hagen, the streets crew leader, said the Gillette Avenue cleanup is scheduled after every snowstorm.

Gillette Avenue is the main street of downtown. The crew cleaned about five blocks of the road. They used giant machines like bobcats and loaders to scoop snow into dump trucks.

"We're starting off with cleaning it off the sidewalks, pushing it into the street, then we load everything up and haul it off and into our snow dumps," Hagen said.

Just clearing Gillette Avenue can take all night. The crews lined up piles of snow the size of cars into the street to be carried off to one of five snow dump sites around town. Scott Ostlund, one of the streets crew workers, said one pile might take ten to 20 loads.

Hagen predicted it will take until mid-July for the piles to melt.

The night crew was out on the streets during the storm.

"It was pretty bad. A lot of the times, we were losing entire lanes on roads with two, three foot drifts coming across and just having a hard time getting our priority routes taken care of," Hagan said.

Ostlund said the wind played a huge factor, and it made the snow a tremendous challenge.

"It is so stressful. You're dealing with the roads and cars and then of course just the snow, you want to do a good job," he said. "This is the first winter I've ever plowed snow, and I'm shocked how stressful it can be."

Ostlund said the crew's main focus is to keep residents safe.

"We just take pride in it. We want to make the streets look as good as we possibly can," he said. "Just like tonight, 24 hours ago, was a pretty bad blizzard. And you really wouldn't know it from the piles of snow we're picking up."

This winter, Gillette has had almost three weeks of below freezing temperatures and an abundance of road closures thanks to heavy snow and strong winds. But it's March, so Hagen and Ostlund are hopeful this will be the last big night shift moving snow.

"I hope it is. I think it's going to be. But that's part of the job," Ostlund said.

Both Ostlund and Hagan agreed that it's time for spring to come.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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