Last week’s blizzard has left many towns in the Northeast questioning who is going to clean up mountains of snow, fallen trees and broken branches. For some states, officials have turned to private contractors for help.
In West Virginia, many National Guard troops who normally help clear debris from blizzards were deployed two weeks ago. When members of the 1092nd Engineer Battalion departed, they took their dump trucks and chainsaws with them. When inches upon inches of snow started to cover the ground late last week, emergency coordinators had to scramble to hire people and equipment to fill the void.
“When you have a snow like we have, it provides good opportunity for construction workers who know how to use equipment like front-end loaders,” Ed Simon, an analyst at the Delaware Department of Labor, told The News Journal.
According to Carl Thompson, deputy state highway engineer for operations, 15 privately owned bulldozers, 14 front-end loaders, seven graders and five snowplow trucks worked on clearing West Virginia’s backroads last Monday. Additional crews were contracted to help cut fallen trees while private company equipment operators helped the Transportation Department efforts by manning heavy equipment.
Many businesses and construction companies with access to heavy equipment are hoping the storm will help make up for the financial slump in projects during this time of year. In Howard County, Md., more than 170 people and more than 100 pieces of heavy equipment worked nonstop through the weekend and the beginning of the week to help clear the snowstorm’s aftermath. The county had to hire several private contractors. The estimated cost for the cleanup is $500,000 for that county alone.
“This is just a massive amount of snow,” Howard County spokeswoman Victoria Goodman told The Washington Post. “It just can’t be pushed. It has to be moved.”
In West Virginia, local districts were being swarmed with calls from private contractors calling in to list what equipment they had available and to offer bids. According to Thompson, hundreds of bids were reviewed.
Private contractors aren’t the only ones profiting from the storm. Equipment suppliers’ shelves were empty of snow blowers as early as Saturday. Andrew Gold, owner of Standard Industrial Supply, told The News Journal he estimates his company’s sales have increased about 25 percent compared with last year.