Riding along with snowplow driver Dan Merz Wednesday, I listened to his horror stories about Tuesday night.
"Last night was absolutely terrible" said Merz, a native of Winthrop Harbor and a 13-year veteran snowplow driver at the Lake County Department of Transportation. "It was a whiteout. There were so many cars stuck on Allegheny and Peterson, it was like a war zone out there."
As Merz pulled his snowplow out of the Lake County Division of Transportation Wednesday afternoon, it was his second shift in 24 hours. Merz had the unenviable task of plowing Tuesday night during one of the biggest snowstorms to hit the area in decades.
"I probably only got about 3-4 hours of sleep last night. We didn't get done until about 2 a.m.," Merz said. "We never made it home, we just stayed at the shop. They had cots laid out for us. We just slept at work. There was no way we could have made it home."
As we approached the corner of Allegheny and Peterson Road. It looked exactly as Merz had described: a war zone. About 20 cars were still were still stranded 12 hours later. The road was down to one lane. That stretch of Peterson has farmland on either side, so there is nothing to stop the wind.
"This stretch gets lot of drifting snow," Merz said.
Snow drifts, some of which reached 7 feet high, ruined much of Merz's work from the night. Carefully maneuvering his plow, Merz removed snow to help free cars.
Several drivers thanked him as he made his way up and down his route. A couple of Good Samaritans were on hand helping people free their cars from the blizzard's wrath.
"That's the kind of people you need when it's like this," Merz said.