February 11, 2013

Fighting off boredom and exhaustion, resilient workers plow ahead

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

By midafternoon Sunday, Adam Moore of Buxton had spent all but three hours of the last three days in his truck, plowing driveways.

click image to enlarge

Chris Massey of Cornish says high winds make the already tedious job of snow removal worse. “I get by on just cigarettes and Mountain Dew,” he said.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Dana Allan of Buxton takes a break from shoveling Sunday to talk about how he keeps himself going while working long hours for days during big snowstorms. Allan, who works for Ferrante Landscape Service, was clearing snow in New Gloucester.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Moore, 40, was on the final countdown of a snowplowing marathon that began in the early hours Friday. He was drinking a lot of coffee and soda, listening to the radio, and getting in and out of the truck to keep himself awake.

"I have 10 more driveways," he said.

Moore was one of a legion of private contractors who worked almost around the clock during the weekend's record snowfall, keeping driveways and parking lots clear. By Sunday afternoon, many said they were weary. But many faced another day or two before they could quit.

They were pacing themselves to remain alert through sometimes blinding conditions, fend off bouts of boredom and fight exhaustion. They will walk away with some good money, they said, but it will take days to recover from one of the biggest plow jobs they would ever encounter.

"It is very scary and tiring," Moore said.

Chris Massey of Cornish was five hours into the job of clearing the Shops at Falmouth Village, operating the controls of a towering loader. He said he would continue until the sprawling parking lot was as clear as possible. Just how long that would take was anyone's guess, he said.

Operating the loader may look like fun, Massey said, but it's not.

"Plowing gets really boring after a while," he said.

He said he was still recovering from spending Friday night at the Unum parking lot in Portland, where the blowing snow made it impossible to see the bucket on his loader in front of him. He said the loader is terrible in snow, despite the deep tread on its gigantic tires, making the job of piling snow even more tedious.

"I get by on just cigarettes and Mountain Dew," Massey said.

Gary Ferrante of Ferrante Landscape Service of Buxton and Portland said long experience has taught him to avoid coffee, drink lots of water and eat healthful foods to keep up his stamina.

By Sunday afternoon, he and his crew had snatched about fours of sleep, some of them on the floor of a maintenance building at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, which they had been clearing since the storm began Friday. He figured he and his crew were about 65 percent done shoveling steps, plowing and clearing the parking lots and buildings at the 5,000-acre facility.

"I am going on adrenaline. It's the worst storm I have ever shoveled," said crew member Dana Allan, 49, of Buxton.

Sergey Migunov, who owns Bear Brothers in South Portland, said the hardest part is pleasing all of his 60 accounts, 10 of which are commercial businesses.

"A lot of people want to be the number one," Migunov said.

On Sunday afternoon Migunov was still getting calls from homeowners overwhelmed by the task of removing shoulder-deep snowdrifts. He said normally he goes to church on Sunday but was dealing with snowblower failures and other headaches instead.

The money is what makes the job worth it, they said. Many expected to walk away hundreds of dollars richer for their toil.

Jeff Horton of North Yarmouth, a subcontractor, said he put in a couple of fairly easy eight-hour days and will make about $500, far better than contractors who have accounts and get paid by the storm or the season, not by the hour.

Moore charges between $30 and $70 per driveway, depending on the size, and the money is good enough to make the time away from home worth it.

But Moore said he was too tired to figure out how he made out from the latest storm, and couldn't even estimate how many driveways he plowed.

"I have no idea," he said. "I lost count."

By midafternoon Sunday, Moore said he was dreaming of home and spending time with his three children.

"And then go to bed for a couple days."

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:



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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Chris Massey of Cornish operates a loader on Sunday at a shopping plaza in Falmouth, while removing snow for Shaw Brothers Construction.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


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