Hitching a ride with a Bitterroot snowplow driver


Riding with a Bitterroot snowplow driver

FLORENCE, Mont. - The sun came out in the Bitterroot Tuesday.

Snow is melting.

Freezing rain overnight caused terrible conditions on many roads.

Ravalli County snowplow drivers are still working serious overtime.

Operator Kelvin Gover has been plowing roads in Ravalli County for 23 years.

The Victor native knows the country and just how hard winter travel can be in Montana.

Overnight there was one-quarter of an inch of ice on many roads.

Gover was plowing Upper Woodchuck Road near Florence when NBC Montana caught up with him.

The weather forced school closures and delays.

"Our main priorities," said Gover,"are pavement and bus routes."

Paved hills are priorities too.

His route encompasses the east side from Stevensville Airport to Florence.

"I have as many miles as the length of Ravalli County,"
 said the veteran operator.

That's about 90 miles of roads.

Ravalli County has about 550 miles of road altogether to take care of.

Nine snowplow drivers cover all of them with nine snowplows.

In bad weather like this there's usually only time to make two passes on each road before going onto the next.

"Now,that we're a little bit caught up," said Gover,"I will go back and try to knock the slush off my main paved roads."

People talk about how bad the weather is.

But Kelvin remembers the winter of 96, which was a winter for the record books.

He also remembers October, 1975, brought 2-and-a-half feet of snow.

"On Halloween, I remember that," he said.

When people plow their own driveways and push the snow onto county roads, snowplow operators end up pushing it back into driveways along the way.

Talking to a homeowner who had chunks of snow blocking his driveway, Gover told him, "this upsets people when I do this. " But he said my job is to keep the roads clear.

But homeowner Mark Dierking said he didn't mind.

He has 4-wheel drive vehicles.

"You've gotta' keep the main arteries going," agreed Dierking.

Gover said he  doesn't have time to stop at every driveway and clear off the snow.

Snow from private driveways dumped onto county roads can cause drainage problems in culverts and saturate roads.

"We're doing the best we can," said Gover.

He said he feels an obligation to the public to keep people safe.

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