Roads belong to the plows
Michael Antonellis of Sokoloski Landscaping plows South Deerfield in Thursday’s snowstorm.
Michael Antonellis of Sokoloski Landscaping in South Deerfield plows customers’ drives in South Deerfield in the midst of Thursday’s snowfall. Recorder/Paul Franz
SOUTH DEERFIELD — By mid-afternoon Thursday, this typically bustling farm town had grown quiet as a fast falling snow blanketed the area. Schools were canceled, the town hall was closed, and most businesses didn’t open. Breaking the silence was the loud sound of plows pushing through the white snow as dozens of private and town plow trucks scattered throughout South Deerfield.
The trucks were clearing the way for what was fast becoming one of the biggest snowstorms of the season.
The National Weather Service predicted 10 to 14 inches of snow for Franklin County starting Thursday morning and continuing early today.
At 2 p.m., about five inches of snow already covered Deerfield. It was the start of a long day.
Sixteen drivers for Sokoloski’s Landscaping, a family business owned by Paul Sokoloski, climbed into the large trucks mounted with 9.5-foot plows. The white trucks with their green logos are a common sight in the neighborhood as they pick up, plow through and clean snow off the roads of 300 Deerfield properties.
It was the first of two rounds of plowing. The Sokoloski crew hit the streets early to plow the driveways of their clients. The crew would later return to do a second cleanup. At the end of the storm in the early morning, they would return to sand and salt the roads.
Each driver was equipped with a list of about 25 properties, ranging from small businesses to large commercial properties and private estates. The properties are broken up into sections so the drivers don’t have to keep criss-crossing throughout the neighborhood.
Mike Antonellis, 27, of South Deerfield, quickly glanced at his list and headed for the South Deerfield Veterinary Clinic on Elm Street.
Antonellis knows his list of properties well. He’s been plowing the same driveways each winter as an on-call driver for Sokoloski Landscaping since 2008.
With a swift press of a button on the driver’s side, Antonellis raised and lifted the plow across the clinic’s driveway, packing the snow back into huge mounds. Soft snow tumbled gently to the side.
Maneuvering the vehicle is natural for Antonellis, who learned how to drive a tractor in a hayfield when he was 5 years old. Antonellis’ family owns the Ciesluk Farmstand in Deerfield. Antonellis helps run and manage the farm.
As Antonellis crossed Routes 5 and 10 and passed and greeted several other plow drivers, he headed toward Eastern Avenue to clear more private driveways.
Later on Jackson Road, Galenski Farm could be seen in the distance. The usually green lush farmland had become a winter wonderland.
The snowfall wasn’t unusual for the year.
Last week’s snowfall also accumulated to around 12 inches and Antonellis worked 12 hours plowing the private driveways.
Around the same time last year, a large snowstorm covered much of Franklin County. Antonellis recalled driving along Kelleher Drive in that February storm, blinded by the snow he had to clear.
Thursday’s snow was light and dry, the best kind to scrape up. Heavy snow, on the other hand, sticks to the plow, making it more difficult to clear the roads, Antonellis said.
What also made the winter clean-up easier was that many cars stayed off the streets. The only movement besides the plow trucks was a tall man wrapped in a warm black coat snowshoeing down Sugarloaf Street.
After almost three hours of plowing private properties, Antonellis headed back toward Sokoloski’s Landscaping on North Main Street. Soon, as the snowfall picked up, it would be time for round two.