What life is like for a municipal snowplow driver.

Tom Verzal has been a snowplow driver for the City of Milwaukee for some 20 years, one of the 103 drivers who make up the Department of Public Works’ “A Team,” the first to respond in the event of a snowfall, whether 1 inch or 24. He drives a big dump-truck-like “salt truck,” helping to clear 7,000 lane miles.

What are your hours like when a big storm hits?

We can work up to 12, 16 hours. We know that from Thanksgiving through to March, we’re married to the city. If we get the call at 2 or 3 in the morning, we’re here. If there’s a big storm [coming], we know in advance. Otherwise, we watch the forecast.

Have you ever had to go out on Christmas?

Absolutely. It’s not fun, but your family knows what to expect. They know that’s why you have your phone next to you. It’s like being a firefighter. We don’t slide down the pole. We slide out of the bed.

What is the biggest misconception people have about snowplows?

When we’re out there, we don’t travel as fast as the cars do. We’re… going in and out of traffic. We’d like for people to stay at least 50 feet behind us and give us some room.

What’s the largest storm you’ve ever worked on?

In December of 2000 we had 50 inches. We were coming in every 12 hours, and it took us two or three weeks to clean up everything. It’s a lot of hours, but it gives you a nice feeling of satisfaction knowing how we took care of [the streets].

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What drives you to do this?

I’m also a big golfer, and it pays for my golfing during the summer time. [Laughs]

‘Plowing Ahead’ appears in the February 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning January 29, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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