By Art Gallagher
This storm and the accompanying road conditions are by far the worst I’ve ever witnessed. Roads throughout the bayshore, even the State Highways that have been plowed repeatedly are barely passable, if passable at all.
Today was one of those days not to take your plans too seriously, even if you thought you were prepared.
I was prepared, so I thought.
Yesterday morning I went to my office to get my little pickup truck, hook up the plow and headed home to watch the Jets lose and the Giants get embarrassed.
Once it was clear there was no coming back for the Giants I went out and plowed the driveway and drove back to the office to clear the lot. My truck and plow are small and this was going to be a big storm. Best to get ahead of it. In the hour it took to get home from the office, crawling behind the DOT contractors clearing Route 36, the driveway was covered again. I plowed it again and called it a night.
This morning started out as expected. Looking out the window I could see the winds were still very strong. The white caps on the bay were more ferocious than I’d ever seen before. None of the streets in downtown Highlands appeared to be cleared. A few brave souls were trying to dig out their cars to get to work. Today was going to be a long day, but there was no rush at 6:30am. Today was going to be a clean up day, not a business day. There was time to tweak Paul Mulshine and the ideologues.
It was about time to clean off the truck and clear the driveway.
I live atop the bluff in Highlands and share the driveway with my neighbor. As is usually the case after a snow storm, Mrs. Neighbor is the first out and shoveling. She shovels where she knows I am going to plow in a half hour or so. I stopped questioning why last winter; it is just what she does. Her teenage boys join her after a little while. Then I come out, warm and clean up my truck and plow. When I’m about done plowing Mr. Neighbor comes out, takes a survey and if need be cleans up what is left with his 30 year old 14 horsepower rear wheel drive Toro tractor and plow. That’s the routine.
So far so good. I leave the house and greet the boys. I shout down the driveway to Mrs. Neighbor to take it easy as I’ll be down the hill with the plow momentarily. The truck is warming up, I’m scraping the ice and snow off the windows when the unexpected happens
Mr. Neighbor, like a gladiator entering the arena, exists his garage straddling his 14 horses and heads down the path his wife and boys had cleared. He rides the tractor right past me without so much as a glance, as his intense glare was on the task ahead. He gets to the end of the clear path, enters the snow and promptly stops. He is stuck. It would have been funny, if I was not on the wrong side of the tractor with a plow that would have easily cleared the driveway had he waited five minutes.
There was no moving the 14 horses. The tractor would not go back up the hill. While trying to push the tractor up the hill, the chains on the tires were ripping into the driveway we got repaved a year or so ago. The best bet was to dig a clearing for the tractor off to the right so that I could get by with the plow and clear the driveway for everyone, just as I would have done already had Mr. Neighbor only waited five minutes.
Finally we get the tractor out of the way and I cleared the lower driveway. Now the tricky part. I always go back up the driveway in reverse with the plow. Otherwise I would be plowing snow uphill into my house and into Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor’s house. Its tricky because I need to get some speed going to get up the hill without getting stuck in ice and without damaging any of the cars parked in the snow or either house. Today it was trickier because I had to navigate around the tractor, which Mr. Neighbor was still sitting on for some reason. I over compensated for Mr. Neighbor and slid off the driveway. My truck was half on the driveway and half on a drop off to my front lawn. Mr. Neighbor smiled for the first time this morning.
I called a tow truck operator who I had run against for borough council twice (note to Gene and Ed if you’re reading, it often works to be civil with people who you disagree with) who showed up with in an hour and had me back on four wheels within 10 minutes of arriving. I looked up the driveway. The Neighbors had managed to move one of their vehicles caddy corner into the place where I had hoped to get to so that I could clear the upper driveway. Over two hours had already passed and I’d only done half of what I’d planned. If only Mr. Neighbor had waited five minutes. Time for me to take care of my office lot and the friends who I promised I would help out.
The roads were horrible. I was able to clear, partly, one friends lot. None of the roads to Sea Scape Manor were passable. Even if they were, I might be able to get down their driveway and not get out. I had to cross the Azzolina Bridge before I could turn around to get back into Highlands. Sea Bright looked like a ghost town, except for the abandoned vehicles at the base of the bridge. A Volvo with its lights on and a National Park Service truck, complete with plow, both of which appeared to be parked.