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Southern New Hampshire Takes The Brunt Of Recent Snow Storms

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

New England snow plow drivers may be the most sleep-deprived people in the country right now, especially in New Hampshire, which has taken the brunt of three big snowstorms. In Portsmouth, New Hampshire Public Radio's Emily Corwin reports.

EMILY CORWIN, BYLINE: I'm standing downtown waiting for a city plow driver.

(SOUNDBITE OF SNOW PLOW)

CORWIN: Hello.

I've been hoping for a ride-along, but Public Works Director Peter Rice hops out of the cab. He says his drivers are too exhausted to safely talk and drive at the same time.

PETER RICE: I would rather just keep them focused on plowing and not get distracted.

CORWIN: Plow driver Jason Gordon is one of 37 city workers going as many as 40 hours without a night's rest.

JASON GORDON: You try to take a nap every, you know, after eight hours, try to get a quick 20 minutes and then get right back at it. I've been here for probably 15, 16 hours.

CORWIN: Asking city workers to pull double shifts isn't unusual during a winter storm. But with three major storms in a row, Portsmouth Public Works has been plowing 14 out of the last 17 days.

GORDON: Yeah. It's been tough.

CORWIN: Gordon is earning time-and-a-half on overtime. His counterparts in the private sector are making even more. Steven Miller owns his own company, so he did let me record while he plowed. With 70 driveways and four parking lots, Miller is making good money. But, he says, working 40 hours straight...

STEVEN MILLER: It's just too much. I don't even care about the money at this point. I'd rather it not even snow, even though I make money. I don't even care about it now. Seriously, that's how bad it is.

CORWIN: Over on Richard Street, the snow banks are almost as tall as North Carolina native Melanie Sampson and definitely taller than her two cockapoos.

MELANIE SAMPSON: It's too deep for the dogs. They hop like bunnies because they can't even run it's so deep. We have to shovel for them to go to the bathroom, so.

CORWIN: As far as shoveling her driveway goes...

SAMPSON: There's really no place to put it. You can see we're piling it on top of the other two feet we already have.

CORWIN: Public works director Peter Rice says he knows residents have literally no place to put the snow in their driveways. So the city is sending empty dump trucks into neighborhoods.

RICE: We're already at that point. And that's why when we go in, we'll do load-outs in the neighborhoods. So we'll go in and we'll transfer material into dump trucks and then load it out to the Pierce Island snow dump.

CORWIN: By now, the city has almost exhausted its $260,000 snow removal budget. As for the plow drivers, let's just hope they get a break before the next big one. For NPR News, I'm Emily Corwin in Portsmouth, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Corwin covers New Hampshire news, and reports on the state's criminal justice system. She's also one of eight dedicated reporters with the New England News Collaborative, a consortium of public media newsrooms across New England.

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