A massive winter storm hit the Northeast Monday night and into Tuesday, closing schools and government offices from Washington, D.C., to Boston, suspending public transportation, and causing the cancellation of more than 6,000 flights.
Winter storm Stella’s heavy snow, sleet, and gusting winds wreaked havoc across several states, with snow totals ranging from a few inches to several feet. Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont recorded a whopping 58 inches.
BrightView branches in the path of Winter Storm Stella began planning in advance of the storm and mobilized before the first flake hit the ground.
“Our local Production Managers and Account Managers secured hotel rooms and went out and bought additional water and food for those of us who were stuck in place,” said Jeff Wood, Branch Manager at BrightView’s Hillside branch. “When we have these snow events, all those restaurants and convenience stores close down. A lot of our time prior to the storm was spent making sure we had an area for people to rest as well as providing them some nourishment.”
For the BrightView snow removal teams in the Hillside area, work began at midnight on Tuesday and didn’t wrap up until Wednesday night.
“I think snow removal, in particular, is one of the services we provide where I am most proud because people are put in really extraordinary situations and yet they rise to the occasion with a great attitude,” Wood said.
The Hillside branch received help from other branches who didn’t receive snow, as well as snow sub-contractors. Together, the team included more than 300 people and 200 pieces of equipment at work clearing the snow and ice.
“The reports I received from my managers varied by time and location,” Wood said. “There were a lot of statements such as ‘I’ve never seen a snowflake that big’ to ‘I’ve never seen sleet come down for that long and as such big pellets.’”
A call went out to BrightView branches in the lower part of the Mid-Atlantic Region with many team members responding.
Roughly 15 team members from the Virginia Beach branch volunteered to make the trek north to New York City, leaving Monday night after returning from their regular shifts.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to travel and help our teams in other markets,” said Matt Tackett, BrightView Production Manager. “Our teams are able to pull resources when we need to and have guys willing to do the work necessary to be sure we’re delivering excellent service regardless of the conditions.”
The convoy of four BrightView plow trucks ran into near white-out conditions once they crossed into Delaware, adding an additional three hours to the trip.
“What was really nice is that we had eight drivers volunteer so all four trucks that came up had back-up drivers so we could switch drivers and get some rest,” said Ryan Lehrter, the branch’s Senior Account Manager.
Once the team arrived in New York, they were tasked with clearing 44 bank branches and the bulk of their work over the 12- to 14-hour shifts came from clearing sidewalks in both the Bronx and Yonkers, which saw about 8 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
“We have a machine called a snow broom, which is basically a big, oscillating broom with a plow blade on the front,” Lehrter said. “Those machines did a phenomenal job. We were rolling in, hitting sites and clearing the entire site in about 15 minutes. It was definitely the most unique item I think New York City has ever seen. People were videotaping us and wondering what it was.”
Similar equipment was used by teams in Washington, D.C., who used a S70 Bobcat with a broom attachment.
“A pretty unique thing about this city is that, for the most part, it’s all sidewalks,” said Andrew Oberlin, Account Manager at the Washington D.C. branch. There’s really not that many plowable surfaces. We use the Bobcat so that it doesn’t scrape up all the nice sidewalk concrete and, in some areas, the marble.”
In Washington, just like the other teams across the Northeast – and beyond in some cases – BrightView answered the call when Winter Storm Stella hit.
“One of our largest client sites opened on time at 6 a.m. when a lot of similar organizations will follow what the government does and were on a delay,” Oberlin said. “For us to be able to have them open on time was really a stamp on the type of service we provide our clients. We take pride in the fact that when the rest of the area around a BrightView site is not open, not cleared, and on a delay, we have our client ready to go as if it was business as usual.”
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