Winter storm tough on county plows

Workers hope to get a broken down Kent County Plow Truck back up and running (January 25, 2014).
Workers hope to get a broken down Kent County Plow Truck back up and running (January 25, 2014).

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) — The extreme winter is not only taking its toll on residents in West Michigan, but it’s starting to affect plows as well.

24 Hour News 8 was there, Saturday afternoon, when a hose on a plow sprung a leak, started leaking hydraulic fluid, and stopped in its tracks.

Kent County plow driver Ron Antor was running his regular route, trying to clear as many secondary roads in Kent County as he could.

The leak, the second such leak in two days, ended up putting him behind.

“Well we’re done,” said an exasperated Antor, minutes before he called back to the Kent County Road Commission to send out a mechanic.

“It happens a lot mostly when it’s cold,” Antor explained to 24 Hour News 8 while waiting for the mechanic. “These temperatures, for some reason, you always have hydraulic hoses bust cause of the cold weather.”

This winter is more difficult on plows than the previous two, according to Kent County Road Commission’s Director of Maintenance, Jerry Byrne and commission mechanic Jim Huisken.

County plows have been running so frequently over the 5,500 lane miles the county has to cover, the temperatures have been very low and there’s been so much snow.

“You’ve got 90 plus trucks out there today, and like with your car, you’d like to think they run forever,” said Byrne over the phone.

Byrne said more problems for the plows arise with heavier snow, like the kind that blanketed Kent County Friday night into Saturday morning.

“We find we get the break downs with heavy snow like today,” said Byrne.

Byrne said the commission tries to buy a six new trucks a year to rotate through the fleet, but for a couple years there just wasn’t any money, meaning some of Kent County’s plows are up to 18- years-old.

Byrne said the road commission has mechanics on duty whenever the plows are, and Huisken said they’ve been busy this year.

Luckily, the broken plow was an easy fix on Saturday, just replacing a hose and replacing the lost fluid. Huisken said many times the repairs are a lot more difficult.

“The wind is the worst part wind, and cold,” said Huisken. “Sometimes we got to lay underneath them for quite awhile so this one wasn’t so bad.”

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