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Smithtown highway chief Glenn Jorgensen talks blizzard response
Smithtown Superintendent of Highways Glenn Jorgensen spoke with reporter Lauren R. Harrison on the town’s response to this weekend’s blizzard. Jorgensen admitted that there were “mishaps” that caused the town to miss a deadline to clear all roads by 5 p.m. Sunday, but said 30 inches of snow in a short amount of time “was an overwhelming and daunting task to overcome.”
What's the update as of now (around 6 p.m. Monday) on plowing?
“Mostly Nesconset was my bad area... I have most of my crews in Nesconset doing some catch-up work...There are some other small areas that my crews are handling," he said.
“I had snow and underneath that snow I had 4 to 5 inches of ice....the ice is hard to break up and is bumpy," he said. "When it rained it exposed the ice that was there, and I’m dealing with the ice now.”
Where are the crews?
“There’s a crew in every part of Smithtown now... I have half my crew in. And I have the other half still working," he said, adding that the crews will be plowing Monday night through Tuesday. “When the ice starts to get chopped up and turns to slush, I have to plow again.”
Why were you unable to make the 5 p.m. deadline on Sunday to have all roads cleared?
“I had a lot of mishaps. I had some breakdowns with my vehicles. They’re very old. I didn’t realize some of the areas that weren't done," he said. "I’m the superintendent of highways. The buck stops here. But we learned from our mistakes.”
What were other contributing factors to the delays?
“I have a lot of old equipment and when I put in my budget for shop overtime for repairing my equipment, I didn’t get the funding I requested," he said.
"They were calling from 6 to 18 inches [of snow]. We can handle 6 to 18 inches...but when we got hit with 30 inches in a short amount of time it was overwhelming and daunting task to overcome," he said. “I had 6-wheelers and 10-wheelers getting stuck in the snow. I had breakdowns. I had to send some loaders to pull out my trucks because they were stuck in the snow. That takes the loaders away from the tasks that they have to do and that takes time.”
How did you prepare leading up to the blizzard?
"On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, I had my guys getting the equipment ready, checking the hydraulics and the lights and checking the safety of the equipment to make sure that everything was running properly," he said. “When we first started this storm, we worked 30 hours straight...At about 2 p.m. Friday afternoon it started to snow. I deployed my trucks. I had whiteouts...I’m out with my crews working. I’m not just sitting in the office. I’m evaluating what’s going on in the field.”
“We did not have a department head meeting before the storm. A department head meeting surely would have helped," he said. “We haven’t had many department head meetings before storms...I prepared the best I could, with what I have -- equipment-wise and money-wise.”
Did you contract to smaller trucks to clear the side streets that were unable to do so?
“I called in about 40 private snow plowers and pick-up trucks... They usually do dead-ends and intersections. They were having trouble also. In fact, some of them went home -- left the job -- because their pick-up trucks couldn’t handle the amount of snow, which also made me fall behind a little bit.”
Did you get help from the state? If so, what kind of help?
“Yesterday, I got two 10-wheelers from the state and additionally today, they sent me four six-wheelers...They told me today some time tonight I was going to get two additional payloaders, and five or six payloaders within the next 24 hours," he said. “I need that additional equipment to break through the ice in the roads and also to push back intersections...I don’t have enough payloaders to do that."
"I do have a couple of payloaders that are shut down...that are unoperable...If I had sufficient overtime money in my shop budget, I maybe would have had them fixed."
-- Lauren R. Harrison