As snow continued to fall shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Joyce Allen noted how infrequently the telephone was ringing inside the Hannibal Street Department’s new building on Warren Barrett Drive.


As snow continued to fall shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Joyce Allen noted how infrequently the telephone was ringing inside the Hannibal Street Department’s new building on Warren Barrett Drive.
“I’ve had one call and it wasn’t a complaint. That’s good,” said Allen, the street department’s secretary for 20 years. “That means everybody is getting around.”
Pausing to watch the white flakes falling outside, Allen added, “I dread big snow storms.”
Wednesday’s snow event certainly did not qualify as a big storm. The National Weather Service was forecasting no more than 2 inches total would fall. Still, as street department snow pushers know, it only takes a little snow to cause big problems.
In an effort to stay ahead of Wednesday’s snow, Brian Ferguson’s day started at 4:30 a.m. The remainder of the street department’s snow movers were on hand between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.
“You never know if it will come down hard or will fizzle out, but we still have to get up and rolling,” said Ferguson, a 28-year veteran with the street department. “We try to get going as fast as we can while still being safe. The guys know what to do after that.”
Each of the 17 drivers has a designated area for which he is responsible.
“Most of them are experienced and know where the trouble areas are,” said Ferguson, assistant street department superintendent.

Ice isn’t nice
The number of trouble areas is dependent on the type and amount of precipitation that falls.
“It does not matter if it’s one-quarter or 1 inch, ice is ice,” said Ferguson.
“Sometimes we come down hills sideways,” said Bill Williams, who has been with the street department for a decade. “If it’s icy we may back up a hill. It can still be tough. Experience is very important.”
One of the most memorable storms in recent years deposited almost a foot of snow on Hannibal.
“They were calling for flurries and it just kept coming,” said Ferguson, noting that at times during the storm the windshield wipers on the snow-pushing trucks were freezing. “With an 11-inch snow, no matter how much equipment you have out you’re still going to be overwhelmed.”
“We worked 36 straight hours during that snow,” recalled Williams, who in addition to his mechanic duties pushes snow in the area from St. Mary’s to the Hannibal Aquatic Center. “We work long hours, but we used to work a lot longer hours.”

Teamwork
“We have more guys now and we get the town done faster,” said Sam Closser, an 11-year member of the street department, whose downtown area to clear extends from Grand Avenue east to the river.
Ferguson stressed that drivers take breaks as their hours mount.
“When we get into long hours they will let me know if they need a break and will not go back out until they feel they are ready,” he said, adding that it’s not uncommon for Leon Wallace, street department superintendent, to send workers home for rest when a shift stretches beyond 12 hours.
Helping snow movers perform their task is a fleet of trucks, which is periodically updated.
“Running eight, 10 and 12 hours a day, these trucks take the beating of age,” said Ferguson. “The new trucks have helped tremendously. Now our trucks are back on the streets within minutes.”
But modern trucks are of little use without drivers to man them.
“We all show up when we’re needed. We have a good team as far as I’m concerned,” said Norman Arbar, a two-year member of the street department, who covers an area that includes Chestnut and Hope Street.
“The guys will work readjust their schedules to work through holidays,” said Ferguson, noting that drivers were called in Christmas Day. “They try to make the streets safer for the rest of the people. The guys all do care. They sincerely want to do their job the best they can.”