In many ways, our lifestyle up here is precarious. We're reminded of that when we get a dumping of snow like the one we got Monday. Each household can only dig itself out so much and so quickly, and even then, people need to get places.
For the same reason our modern society can't rely on impromptu bucket brigades to put out our fires or vigilante militias to enforce our laws, it needs trained professionals to remove snow from public passageways. The number-one essential public service on days like these is clearing roads and sidewalks; if that doesn't happen, hardly anyone can get anything else done.
Sure, it's fun to ski or snowshoe around town for a few magical hours when everything is buried in beautiful white snow, but that would get old really quickly if you couldn't get your essential work done.
Fortunately, we have never gotten to that point, thanks to the men and women who work for our village public works departments, town and county highway departments and the state Department of Transportation. They have done excellent work in general, and we at the Enterprise are appreciative.
The snow total since early January has been monumental, and we've relied on these public workers more than usual. They can't do everything at once, of course, but they have been strategic in their approach, starting with busier areas like downtowns and main highways, then neighborhood streets - starting with the most-used ones - then downtown sidewalks and main walking routes, then neighborhood sidewalks. They have plugged away at this for weeks after major snowstorms, going back to pick snow from the same curbs over and over.
This takes time, yet every little street or sidewalk that isn't cleared immediately is a major obstacle to the people who need them to get to and from work, school and shopping. It's also a safety concern, since without sidewalks, adults and children have to walk in the streets, which are narrowed by the encroaching snowbanks. The fact there have not been any car-pedestrian collisions yet is a credit to our drivers and our plow drivers, but it's also just good luck.
If your sidewalk still isn't clear, consider how much these workers have to deal with - the village of Saranac Lake alone has 15.6 miles of sidewalks - and consider that they are running of room in their snow fields. Tupper Lake village crews, for now, are only clearing enough snow for two cars to pass; otherwise they wouldn't have room to put it all. Saranac Lake has had blower trucks from the town of Harrietstown and Franklin County help clear space it its snow yard, and it has also gotten permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to dump new-fallen snow in the Saranac River. These are necessary and strategic steps taken in the interest of getting the basics done first.
Also consider, if you're about ready to gripe, doing your part by using a shovel or snowblower to clear a sidewalk in front of your or your neighbors' home.
Many workplaces and all schools shut down Monday, when Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake ended up with 29 inches of snow, Lake Placid received 24 and Bloomingdale topped out at 32. Many people, instead of spending a day at work, worked to dig themselves out. For others, it made more sense to just spend the day inside.
But there are services people need regardless of the weather - groceries, fuel, health care, medicine, police and news, for instance - and people needed to get out of their homes to provide those Monday morning, in the thick of the dumping snow. It took a little longer than usual, but thanks to local plow drivers, life went on.