Community helps short-staffed road crew through storm

6 years ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — With Limestone Public Works Director William Thibodeau resigning this month, the town’s road crew only had one part-time and two full-time workers left to maintain the roads after the recent storm

One road even had to be shut down for 12 hours because road crews could not keep up with blowing and drifting snow.

Limestone Interim Town Manager and Police Chief Stacey Mahan said that Thibodeau officially resigned on Sunday, Jan. 7.

Mahan said he is unable to comment on the reasons behind Thibodeau’s resignation since it is a “personnel matter.”

Mahan said the town received a great deal of help with the blizzard from the Water and Sewer District, members of the community with plows equipped to their trucks, and from the town of Fort Fairfield.

The Limestone Police Department posted on its Facebook page this photo taken from the inside of a cruiser on an unidentified road during the Jan. 4 storm. (Courtesy of Limestone Police Department)

The majority of road hazards during the storm, according to Mahan, were caused by the wind.

“We officially closed the Blake Road for 12 hours,” he said, “just for the wind factor. It really took over the road. I went out there myself on Friday night and it was impassable in some areas. There wasn’t even one lane.”

Mahan said roughly 25 people live on the four mile road and that highway staff maintained a narrow path in case of an emergency

“If someone had to get out of there,” he said, “they could have, but it would have been tight.”

He said the high winds kept blowing the snow and causing big drifts where there were no trees to shield the road.

As police chief, Mahan said he did not hear about any cars driving off the road during the storm, and quickly knocked on his wooden desk.

“I probably just jinxed us by saying that,” he joked, adding that many of the main roads on his Friday, Jan. 5, commute between Mars Hill and Limestone were down to one lane due to low visibility.

Mahan commended the public works department workers for “doing what they can with the time that they have.”

“It’s not like they have an “A” team and a “B” team,” he said. “We’re fortunate in the police department to have shifts, and to be able to sleep. If an officer works from seven to three, someone will come in from three to eleven. With these guys, they come in at four in the morning and they’re working until they can’t anymore.”

Mahan said he has “probably learned more about snow in the last week than” he “knew there was to learn,” and that the public works crew informed him snow gets increasingly difficult to move each time it is plowed.

“I learned it can lose density when it’s blown and becomes like a rock when it hits the ground,” he said. “I got an education from the highway guys about how hard it can be to move snow. I didn’t know there was such a science behind it, but apparently there is.”

Mahan said that, even with outside assistance, there is only so much a road crew can accomplish during a significant storm. He said the condition of the Blake Road was so dire that it wouldn’t have been cleared even if one crew member spent the entire storm driving up and down the one road.

“My hat goes off to them when they go into a whiteout with the plow truck,” he said. “Mother nature is controlling it; we’re just trying to keep up.”