Snowflakes drifting from the sky may elicit groans from people worried about driving in it, but for others the snowfall is an opportunity.
From teenagers armed with snow shovels to landscapers with plow attachments for their trucks, private snow-clearers can help fill in the cracks after government snow plows clear (or don’t clear) the streets and city-owned parking lots.
Gary Foust of Hermiston said when snow hits it is hard for work to continue at the metal recycling yard he owns, so he advertises snow removal services to keep busy.
“I can sit at home and twiddle my thumbs or I can go out and do something,” he said.
Foust said he gives price quotes depending on difficulty — an empty driveway at a residence is easy, while a vehicle-filled car dealership can take quite a while to clear.
“I like doing it at nighttime, when there are fewer people around ... I work all night long when it snows,” he said.
He said many people he knows who do snow removal own landscaping businesses and have to come up with something else to do when snow covers the grass and foliage around town.
In Pendleton, Kline Landscape & Irrigation Inc. already has enough residential and commercial snow-removal customers to keep them from taking on any more right now.
“Our people were out for 12 hours,” Lana Kline said of the most recent snowfall. “They started at one in the morning and didn’t finish until the afternoon.”
She said the company clears parking lots and keeps sidewalks shoveled during the winter, which can be time-consuming and require getting up before dawn to finish before the businesses open. Deeper snow means harder work, and if snow falls over multiple days or melts and then re-freezes they end up returning to the same business multiple times.
“It burns out our employees because you’re putting in long hours, you’re up at weird times and even though they’re used to working outside they’re using different muscles,” Kline said.
When the landscaping companies are overbooked, some people turn to Facebook and word of mouth to find individuals offering snow removal.
Paul McDonough of Hermiston started using a small red Kubota tractor with front loader and rear blade to clear the parking lot where his wife works, and soon had other businesses and a few churches asking if they could pay him to clear snow from their parking lots. The rest of the year McDonough uses the tractor for work on a handful of acres of land he owns.
“This is my second year doing it, I just got the tractor a year ago so it’s still new,” he wrote in a Facebook message, adding, “Good way to offset the cost of the tractor.”
He said if people want their driveways and parking lots cleared, it’s best to make the call when snow has first fallen instead of waiting until it has been compacted by vehicles and in some places turned to ice.
Naomi Sanchez said her husband Ildefonso Zuniga cleared snow for several businesses on 11th Street in Hermiston using his tractor during the last week. During most of the year he makes money growing vegetables and strawberries, but winter is slow for him.
“This year he hasn’t done very many but last year he did a lot,” she said of the snow removal.
Not everyone charges for their services. In Pilot Rock, Mike Lankford and a fellow snowplower who said he would like to remain “low key” and anonymous rigged blades to their ATVs and clear surfaces in town that didn’t get cleared by municipal vehicles.
“I just do it do help people out,” Lankford said. “I’m on crutches, I’ve been on them most of my life, I’ve had six different hips, so I know what it’s like to get around.”
He said they try to hit sidewalks and parking lots and other places that don’t get cleared by larger plows, so that people can have a clearer walk all the way from their car to the grocery store or other businesses.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.