Motorists heading to the mountains to ski or traveling over the pass to visit family and friends are driving into a powerful winter storm that will slow travel this weekend.
Adding to the challenge is a shortage of snowplow drivers.
“I’m knocking off the center powdery snow. At the same time I’m sanding to provide traction on the spot you can see that does not have a lot of snow on it currently,” said Scott Myhre, ODOT snowplow driver. “The outside temperature is 23 degrees and the road temperature is 19. That’s why the snow is not really sticking to it because it’s so cold.”
Scott Myhre was eight hours into a 10-hour shift when I caught a ride with him on Century Drive heading toward Mount Bachelor.
This is his second season of plowing snow in a 10-wheel truck with three blades while spreading traction sand in traffic on ice.
“The worst part about this job is everybody else. Everybody is in a hurry,” he said.
While I was riding with Myhre, a pickup truck heading the opposite direction crossed over the center lane in front of the snowplow while trying to pass, and barely got back into the lane without causing an accident.
“The safest place you can be is behind a snowplow because they are clearing the snow,” said Kacey Davey, ODOT public information officer. “They can only go about 30-35 mph. If that’s how fast they are going, that’s probably how fast you should be going as well.”
An ongoing shortage of snowplow drivers means you will probably see and have to deal with more snow and ice on the roads this winter.
“Maybe you are seeing just one lane that’s plowed instead of all lanes,” Davey said. “Maybe there will be more snow and ice on the road; more frequent chain conditions because we don’t have as many vehicles out there.”
ODOT is hiring snowplow drivers and provides training.
Myhre joined the snowplow ranks after retiring from firefighting where he drove fire trucks. He works three days a week helping people get to where they are going.
“It’s an interesting job. We know the difference we are making,” Myhre said.
During winter storms, Highway 97 from Redmond through Bend to Sunriver is the highest priority snowplowing route because it serves so many motorists. Highway 20 is the second priority.
The road to Mount Bachelor comes in a distant third.
So slow down. Let the snow plows work and reach your destination in one piece.