Starke County Highway Department plow drivers are ready for whatever Mother Nature brings. Superintendent Rik Ritzler says they work strategically since they don’t have the resources to clear roads around the clock.
“We have just enough drivers to plow the entire county in an eight hour shift. The most we want to use our drivers in a 24-hour period is 12 hours,” Ritzler said. “It’s really not safe to do it after that. We also prefer not to do it at dark. It’s not safe and productive that way. We do go out after dark if we have to. We prefer to get going right before the buses start and after people get home from work, so our best times are about 4 in the morning to 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon.”
Ritzler adds they always prepare for the worst, as lake effect snow can hit at any time. He says the drivers can be ready to go in 15 to 20 minutes if they get called out. Additionally he says the highway department works closely with the school districts and has a list of their bus routes and turnarounds. This allows them to make sure the plows go in front of the buses and clear key routes to help them move smoothly through their routes. Ritzler also talks to the school superintendents about conditions so they can make informed decisions about whether to delay or cancel school.