The most important thing snow plow driver Jesse Rix wants everyone to know about his profession, he said, is that plow drivers are not out to dump snow on freshly shoveled driveways.
When hundreds of plow drivers are clearing more than a foot of snow from streets around the Twin Cities metro — as Rix did Thursday morning in St. Louis Park — sometimes it's inevitable.
"We don't aim to put any snow in anybody's driveways on purpose!" Rix said. "We are here to clear the roads. We are not trying to be an inconvenience."
As drivers plow, the plow blades push a bigger and bigger pile down the edge of the street until the snow finds somewhere to dump out.
Unfortunately, that's often somebody's driveway.
"Contrary to popular belief, these guys are not mean," said Jeff Stevens, public works superintendent in St. Louis Park. "They don't intentionally plow in driveways or knock over mailboxes. It's the volume of snow that does it."
On Thursday, Stevens said, drivers started at 4 a.m. They cleared main streets that connect neighborhoods to highways, then took a pass through the neighborhoods to help commuters get on the roads. Then by midmorning, St. Louis Park's 11 plow drivers went over the streets again, this time clearing as close to the curbs as they could.
The exact route depends on the storm — how much snow there is, how fast it is falling, how long before it stops.
As superintendent, it's Stevens' job to devise a schedule that will get the roads as clean as possible while not running afoul of labor rules that limit how much time a plow driver can be out. He has a pretty good sense of how long it will take to clear snow from different storms, based on 38 years of experience with snow, the machines and St. Louis Park's 153 miles of streets.
With the long duration of snow, Stevens said the plan was to make a first pass through the city Thursday morning, then come back for a more thorough clean-up Thursday night and Friday morning.
Plows only make right turns, Stevens said, because the blades are only set up to push snow to the right. So after the main roads are clear, drivers plow in squares around the city, clearing neighborhoods block by block. Sometimes they have to take a couple runs around a block to heft all the snow off the road, or wait for an idling car to get out of the way.
Most people have been good about moving their cars, Stevens said, but he said police had ticketed more than 70 cars by 9 a.m. Thursday, in addition to a couple hundred on Wednesday. St. Louis Park, like most suburbs, bans all on-street parking during snow emergencies.
Most people understand plow drivers are doing their best to make the streets safer for everyone, Rix said, even if sometimes he gets berated by someone in a hurry.
"They seem to care and appreciate what we do, for the most part," he said.
And if a plow happens to dump a pile of snow in a meticulously snowblown driveway, there is a certain kind of justice, Stevens said.
"Remember, these guys that plow all day go home and shovel out their driveways at night."