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ODOT searches for plow drivers as it prepares for lake effect snow in Northeast Ohio

The lake effect snow machine is cranking up, but the department finds itself short-handed.

CLEVELAND — As portions of the primary snowbelt prepare for accumulating snow, crews from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) are also getting ready for the wintry weather.

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According to Northeast Ohio ODOT, their crews are prepared for the snowfall with 277,000 tons of salt on hand with the ability to make their own salt brine to help with the storm.  

ODOT is also asking drivers to allow for extra travel time during winter weather conditions. Drivers can check live traffic cameras, traffic delays as well as crashes and incidents on OHGO.com.

"Where heavy snow persists, don't expect perfect road conditions. Our snowplows will be plowing and treating roads and doing their best to keep the roads safe and passable," said ODOT officials in a media release. 

ODOT noted that they are responsible for treating state and US routes outside of municipalities as well as all interstates, except for the Ohio Turnpike. 

3News' Hollie Strano noted that the lake effect snow forecasted in Northeast Ohio will primarily impact Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties. 

RELATED: FORECAST | Tracking accumulating lake effect snow: When and where to expect the biggest impacts

The snow is expected to begin Wednesday night and continue through Thursday. 

“You could see some heavy bands of snow setting up and continuing through Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties," Strano says. "Impressive snow coming down overnight and into tomorrow morning. Notice some of you west and inland are not seeing anything at all.” 

Drive around any community in Northeast Ohio and you will see the "help wanted" signs everywhere. Workers are needed, especially plow drivers.

"We are looking to hire seasonal workers right here in Northeast Ohio during the winter months," Amanda McFarland with ODOT told 3News. "Those employees, when they are not plowing snow, will do other operations ."

McFarland says the department has been short-handed with drivers since last year.

"I wish I knew what everyone was up to," she lamented. "We do pay $19.15 an hour for these positions, with plenty of opportunity for overtime."

So far, ODOT has hired 102 seasonal workers, or 52% of the approximately 196 they are hoping to hire. Even with low staff, they have been able to perform their maintenance operations because other internal employees chipped in to help. However, there are some requirements:

  • A valid Class A or Class B Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and no air brake restriction
  • Three months training or three months experience in operation of basic equipment
  • Ability to pass a Physical Ability Test (lift 50-100 pounds)
  • Ability to pass a criminal background check and pre-employment drug screen
  • A valid email address

In addition, full-time eligible employees who take part in winter operations will be eligible to receive $2,500 retention bonuses. You can apply online HERE.

Meanwhile, following the snow debacle of this past January, the city of Cleveland debuted its painted snowplows.  

City spokesperson Bonnie Teeuwen says they are ready, but they, too, are short-handed

"We are in the process of hiring for three shifts," she claimed, "so we are ready."

It's been a process since COVID to hire qualified plow drivers to attack the winter snow. With or without drivers, ODOT says the job will get down.

Currently, a Winter Weather Advisory is in place until Thursday, Nov. 17, at 10 p.m. for Lake County and Geauga County. Lake effect snow is expected, with total snow accumulations ranging from 3-6 inches. 

3News will continue to update weather alerts for Northeast Ohio HERE.

RELATED: Here's how ODOT is preparing for snow and ice this winter

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above was previously streamed on 3News on Oct. 17, 2022. 

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