On Sunday at 3 am, 15 dump trucks hauling 15 loaders departed from Dummerston to respond to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s acceptance of an offer of help from Gov. Peter Shumlin. Tasked with removing snow from Boston, the 30 VTrans employees had already been working around the clock to clean up the portion of the nor’easter that hit southern Vermont, as well as the storm that blew into the northern portion of the state.
Among the 30 were eight employees of the two districts that maintain roads in the Deerfield Valley. The crews also included two crew chiefs, Bill Leach, general manager of District #1, and Tammy Ellis, transportation administrator from District #2, as well as three mechanics.
According to Sue Minter, deputy secretary of Vermont’s agency of transportation, the crews were under the command of Massachusetts transportation officials, and divided into two groups, one going to Charlestown and one to downtown Boston. In Boston, the task was removing snow from dozens of city streets, while crews in Charlestown worked for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority clearing parking lots where hundreds of buses were stuck.
Vermont’s transportation agency has a fleet of 250 plow trucks and 25 spares, which meant no risk of depleting the availability of resources in Vermont. Massachusetts has a fleet of 4,000 plow trucks, but the storm was so crippling that Gov. Patrick declared the state’s first statewide driving ban in 35 years. “We did a very careful analysis of our capabilities,” said Minter. “We looked at what assets we could deploy without in any way negatively affecting our work here in Vermont.”
According to Minter, the willingness of the agency’s crews to volunteer to journey to Boston after cleaning up Vermont is a testament to both the work ethic of the agency’s employees, and the automatic reaction of Vermonters helping others in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. “One of the reasons the workers are so pleased is that these same people, many of them, were in service to help us recover from Irene,” said Minter. “During Irene we had support from eight different states which included Maine and New Hampshire’s departments of transportation, and what I’ve heard from the crew chiefs I spoke to was that they’re so glad to be able to return a favor.”
Minter credits the Emergency Management Agency Compact (EMAC) with giving a state the ability to react so quickly to help a neighbor. Established in 1996, EMAC is a national disaster relief compact among all 50 states which enables states to provide assistance to each other during a governor-declared state of emergency. EMAC also provides a clear system by which liability issues, as well as state-to-state reimbursement for services is handled. EMAC, according to its web site, “stands today as the cornerstone of the nation’s mutual aid system.”
“It’s through that compact that we received aid from around the country and I think we learned how essential help from neighbors can be,” said Minter.
Crew members from District #1 include Tanner Yule and Peter Boyd, while District #2 sent Jonothan Bevins, Tom O’Connell, Michael Furgat, and Dale Jarvis.
The crews were originally scheduled to come home on Wednesday, but were asked to stay for a fourth day, and are scheduled to come home today.
“We’re in the business of getting snow moved and we’ve heard a lot of praise during this operation,” said Minter.