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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Wednesday, April 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Only Tempers Are Hot In Snowy North Idaho After Eight Weeks Of Heavy Snow, ‘Berm’ And ‘Plow’ Are Four-Letter Words

By Ken Olsen Susan Drumheller Contribut Staff writer

A man jumped on the running board of a city snowplow a few days ago and threatened to blow the driver’s head off for plowing shut a driveway.

Police were called to another Lake City home last week after a mother complained that a snowplow driver struck her son with snow from the plow.

And Monday night, one resident of the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden went for his gun and his pepper spray during an altercation with another Aryan Nations’ resident over snowplowing.

After eight weeks of wintry weather across the Panhandle, nothing could be hotter than tempers. Mountains of snow, melting or not, means mountains of anger.

“Fuses are short, everybody has cabin fever,” said Capt. Ben Wolfinger of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

“Eleven years and it’s the toughest (weather) I’ve seen and the meanest people I’ve seen,” added Tim Klein of his years as a supervisor at Coeur d’Alene’s street department.

People throw things at plow drivers, stand in the middle of the road to try to stop the blade from pushing the great wall of snow across their driveways, Klein said.

Coeur d’Alene Public Works Director Rodger Lewerenz has been flagged down by residents who want to complain about their driveways getting plugged up by the passing plow.

“There’s a real high frustration level,” Lewerenz admitted. The street and public works department staffs have taken many angry phone calls from residents.

But to lift the plow blade at each driveway would add so much time to plowing that some neighborhoods would never see a snowplow, he said.

And a capital investment of $10,000 to $20,000 to purchase contraptions to bypass driveways may not be worth it if a snowfall like this only occurs every four years or so, he added.

The emotional and weather outlooks are equally grim. Teresia Chase, who called police to complain that a snowplow driver forced her son to jump out of the way while he was shoveling the driveway, is at the end of her patience. She also claims to have had two near-misses with plows while driving down city streets.

“These snowplows think they own the road, they think they are God,” she said.

The police report and street supervisor Klein tell a different story. They say Chase’s son, 14-year-old Nathaniel Norman, saw the plow and motioned it to go around the driveway instead of plowing in a berm.

After the driver and Norman traded hand signals, the plow driver lifted the blade and slowly moved forward, they said.

“I’d bet my life that (Chase’s story) is not what happened,” Klein added.

He is frustrated that folks don’t understand how tough life is for drivers who spend at least a dozen hours on a plow and then go home to shovel their own driveway berm. After eight weeks of nearly continuous plowing, none has spent holidays with their families or taken care of their personal lives.

“This team has been excellent, they kept the entire city going through a history-making ice storm and a winter” that threatens to rival the blizzards of 1992-93. “You look at these guys four or five weeks ago and their eyeballs were on their cheeks then,” Klein said.

By Saturday, Coeur d’Alene is supposed to be back to snow. “Long-term, I hear there’s storms lined up from here to Russia,” Klein added. “But we’re ready.”

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Ken Olsen Staff writer Staff writer Susan Drumheller contributed to this report.

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