Digging Out, Load by Load
The Sheet finds out what it takes to truck tons of snow out of Mammoth
It’s been any truck-loving toddler’s dream—real-life Tonka Toys rolling up and down Main Street, beds heaped full of snow, every time there’s a break in the weather. And, even cooler, last weekend the local haulers were joined by a bevy of heavy duty army vehicles when 17 soldiers and airmen from the Army and Air National Guard deployed to Mammoth Lakes to help make a dent in the massive amount of snow in town.
After both the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mono County declared a state of emergency last month, “Mono County leaders reached out and requested the National Guard’s help,” said Captain Will Martin, Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the California Military Department, in an email to The Sheet. While it’s unusual for the Guard to help with snow-removal operations, it’s not unheard of, though they more frequently assist with search-and-rescue and fire emergencies, said Martin.
“The crews arrived at Mammoth Lakes on March 1 and went to work the next morning around 7 a.m.,” said Martin. They convoyed a total of 10 heavy trucks to Mammoth Lakes, including several Army M1157 10-ton dump trucks, and one HEMMT wrecker (the Mad Max-style eight-wheel, diesel-powered 10-ton tactical truck that was the most striking of the vehicles deployed).
“The Cal Guard also deployed several of its Air Force dump trucks and tractor-trailers to support the effort,” wrote Martin. They wrapped up their mission and headed back to their bases on Sunday, March 5.
“We had four 7.5-ton dump trucks, and also had four semi-tractors and semi-trailers that pulled our dump trucks” to the Eastside from three different Air National Guard bases in California, said Staff Sgt. Chris Valenzano in an interview with The Sheet on Wednesday, March 8. Valenzano said that locally-operated loaders were also enlisted to help move snow from the towering banks into the waiting trucks.
The National Guard crew were welcomed with cheers, honks, and requests for photo opportunities by Mammoth residents, grateful for their efforts.
Valentano said that his crew were overwhelmed by the reaction from local residents. “They absolutely loved it, this is what we train for. Of course we never hope for [emergencies] to happen, but it’s awesome to be able to put our skills to work…this is the stuff that’s the most rewarding to us, to be able to be there to help our neighbors in a time of need.”
The National Guard crews were performing a blitzkrieg version of what local haulers have been doing since storms started slamming Mammoth beginning in January, dumping 20-plus feet of snow in town in just over a month.