‘Any warm body I can get’: Short-staffed NDOT sends snowplow crews to western Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – On Tuesday morning, several crews from the Nebraska Department of Transportation were sent to the western third of the state.
John Selmer, director of NDOT, recently told lawmakers he is short about 250 licensed snowplow drivers.
With blizzard warnings through Thursday morning, more workers were needed since the department is facing that shortage.
“With the amount of wind we had coming and the amount of snow they were calling for, we were going to need additional resources with snowblowers and things of that nature,” said Tom Renninger, Highway Operations Division manager for NDOT.
Selmer also said the state is “fortunate” because the storm is only affecting one part and not the entire state.
“Had this storm been a statewide storm, it would have been a whole different game plan for us to put together to try to keep the roads open as good as we could,” Renninger said.
Local residents, including one couple from Sidney, also stepped in to help in residential areas where people were getting stuck, if not also getting stuck themselves.
“They sometimes need assistance when it comes to snowstorms, especially as big as this one,” said Emma Tuzicka of Sidney. “He (Tuzicka’s boyfriend) was supposed to go in at 1 this morning to help plow, and we got stuck ourselves trying to get him there. We spent a good hour and a half trying to get out.”
NDOT has also continued to get help from office staff who have a commercial driver’s license.
“This was a huge effort,” Renninger said. “When we ask people to volunteer to go to do this type of stuff, we’ll get many people that will volunteer because the folks that work for the State of Nebraska, they want to help the state of Nebraska.”
During an annual report to a Nebraska Legislature committee, Selmer said he needs “any warm body I can get out there,” according to the Nebraska Examiner.
“It’s just so nice to see the community aspect come together in all forms to really try and help get everyone where they need to go,” Tuzicka said. “No one likes to be stuck. No one asks to be stuck. It doesn’t really matter if you have four-wheel drive in this or not.”