Ride along with snow plow driver clearing Rapid City roads

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When the snow flies, the world doesn't stop. Many of us still have places to be. Black Hills FOX's Jon Wilson spent part of Friday morning with someone who helps make that possible.

In order to get on our way on day's like Friday, we rely on snow plows to clear the way. I spent part of the morning with Brent Valandra and a group of three other drivers for the City of Rapid City, working as a team with a strategy to clear the roads on the west side of town.

City of Rapid City Equipment Operator Brent Valandra says, "I'm just pushing it for whatever he does. I'm just pushing it that way, but the guy in the back who's curbing, he's got to go slower, he's got to make sure he gets it all the way to the curb. If not, might have to make another trip."

Time spent in the plow is time spent locked in on the plow, the road, and the surroundings.

Valandra says, "You're concentrating on what he's doing and what I'm doing, and the guy behind you, what he's doing. Then you constantly listen to the radio. You know, there's a lot of distractions like you seen, the big horn sheep. Then you got to worry about impatient drivers."

Many impatient drivers complain about the speed of the plows, but there's a reason why they take it slow, and it's not simply because the roads are slick.

Valandra says, "If you go to fast, your plow will start bouncing, and you're not doing anything then. You're just bouncing your plow, you're not actually plowing anything."

Clearing the roads while also obeying all traffic rules can lead to the group getting split up.

Valandra says, "Yeah, this is where traffic likes to stack up is here, stoplights."

When the plows break up, windrows, or chucks of snow or ice could cause trouble for following drivers since the trailing plow is now a larger distance behind.

Valandra says, "Because of traffic and traffic lights, we got split up. Now we got to worry about vehicles hitting that windrow on the passenger side here. It could be an ice chunk in there and blow a tire or something. Then we'd be reliable for it because we put it there."

Brent and I were the middle truck on the team of three, purely focused on plowing the roads. That fourth driver has a little different responsibility.

Valandra says, "They'll start treating the treating the intersections, salting the intersections as we go. We're just more worried about getting it off the road."

Groups of four are commonly used on the wider roads. The drivers work by themselves more often when they hit the residential streets to make travel a little safer for the rest of us.