Shutters are tightened, extra blankets are taken out of the linen closet and heating units are cranked up as the Midwest and southeast Michigan prepare for one of its heaviest snowstorms since 2015. Expecting 9–12 inches of snow over the course of 24 hours, cities such as East Lansing are declaring a “state of emergency.”
With most of East Lansing bunkered down in their beds, individuals such as CATA bus driver Gene have duties to attend to. Having driven Bus #621 for 17 years for Michigan State University, with delivery truck driving experience before that, there’s no question the 58-year-old is comfortable on his route. Regardless of CATA’s shortage of bus drivers on campus, the 7-inch accumulation by 11 a.m., to Gene, was like “Sunday School.”
“Hearing about it on the news last night with my wife, I was flabbergasted for sure, but I knew tomorrow wouldn’t be any different,” said Gene. “We’ve got more folks on the job today anyhow, and I think it’s worth it gettin’ the kids to their classes.”
Important links in the supply chain
While Michigan State’s bus drivers assist students on their treks to various courses, delivery trucks make their way to dormitory dining halls for the daily unload. Outside of MSU’s Owen Hall stood a Lipari Foods semi-truck, weather and all. With 24 years driving for Lipari, Kevin Hedley wasn’t on the scene to get behind the wheel. Driving his personal vehicle out in front, today was “route-training day.”
“Yeah, yeah, of course, the storm was all over the news yesterday,” Hedley said, “regardless, though, I’m out here with a trainee running through a new route.”
The experienced driver assured, however, that the weather wouldn’t cease deliveries. Starting the day at 4:30 a.m. to avoid some of Mother Nature’s beating, Hedley said he had little to no concerns about making his company’s 7 p.m. curfew.
“Our main concern was the snow slowing us down, you know, schedule-wise,” said the 44-year-old, “it pushes us harder as a team though, I think. Like it’s only mid-day, and we’re halfway through.”
Clearing the streets and sidewalks
As the long winter’s day dwindled to an end, one of many snow removal trucks clock in for the night, hours over schedule. MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities Supervisor Josh Ridner finishes his day at 6:45 p.m., after beginning it nearly 16 hours prior at 3 a.m. Typically used to his schedule of 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Ridner took over for an employee on vacation to get the job done.
“Yeah, sure, it’s a little more snow than we like, and there’s the issue of where to put it all, of course,” said the 45-year-old MSU alum. “But I think it’s rewarding, what I do.”
Monitoring police cameras pointed at the sidewalks for hours on end, Ridner said his team had been paying attention to the storm since its prediction. Working overtime without the extra pay, the supervisor-turned-driver, along with countless others, made no shortcuts in clearing the precipitation for others’ safety.
“I’m leaving as soon as I can to get some sleep, I’ll be doing it all over again at 2 a.m. tomorrow, after all,” said Ridner. “Man, I wish I were in Florida right about now!”