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VALDEZ - A dire need for snow shovelers has produced a small economic boom here.
So far this winter, 333 inches of snow has fallen on Valdez. Roofs reached critical load levels of more than 90 pounds per square foot by early this month, said Jeff Bailey of the National Weather Service.
So before the roofs could cave in, calls for snow shovelers were issued by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the city and Valdez schools, among others.
Jean Cobb, manager of the state Job Service office, said she was inundated with calls from homeowners and businesses the first week of February. Cobb said her office issued urgent requests for workers on GCI Cable's two-way radio frequency and on the radio and put more than 50 people to work at $10 to $15 an hour.
Blake Johnson, business agent for Laborers Local 341, estimated another 20 people were put to work since Jan. 21, mostly at the Alyeska Marine Terminal. Union people were paid $19 an hour plus benefits, he said.
City public works manager Stan Gilfillan said the city hired about 10 people to shovel about 50,000 square feet of rooftops, including the Valdez Teen Center, Valdez Consortium Library, City Hall, Valdez Civic Center and other city buildings.
Crews used 6-foot cross-cut saws honed from old aluminum highway signs to cut columns of snow, which were transported on large snow scoops to designated push-off areas. As the push-off areas filled, front-end loaders came in to haul off the snow to a dump site.
The city brought in an extra bulldozer to push snow higher at the storage sites, City Manager Dave Dengel said. But as temperatures have fallen, the snow has become denser and harder to push.