HHC After Dark

Hunkering down in the plow trucks

By Gary Kleebatt

We appreciate the valuable work done by HHC colleagues on second and third shifts and we highlight their contributions in every issue.

The entire state hunkered down for the March 14, 2017, blizzard as the governor shut the roads and Torrington police banned parking on roads and city lots.

Temperatures sank to 12 degrees, wind howled at 50 mph and snow was measured in feet. Few dared to go out.

Among the exceptions were George Teri-Savage, director of facilities at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital (CHH), and his crew who ensure the hospital is always accessible for emergencies. Bitter cold, fierce wind and enormous snow drifts are actually when Teri-Savage and crew are most important and effective.

Torrington is perhaps Connecticut’s snow capital, and CHH presents treacherous hill-side terrain with 15 parking lots and miles of road. Each lot has a set of stairs to clear for a multi-level obstacle course with twists, turns, inclines and declines.

At night, with winds whipping, snow mounting and icy conditions; theirs is a physical trial that makes marathons seem easy.

“You get two or three feet of snow here and it’s brutal,” Teri-Savage said. “It’s hard to see when it’s snowing at night with wind blowing. It’s slippery and that makes it harder to get up and down these hills.”

The March 2017 blizzard, he noted, demanded everything the team could muster.

“The guys were out 36 hours straight,” he said. “They worked through the night. The wind was so strong it was blowing automatic doors open. But, we own it.”

The Emergency Department has to be open 24 hours a day no matter the conditions.”

No one calls out during blizzard, instead dutifully donning goggles, snowsuits, boots and gloves.

“If they are here during the day, they are back at night,” Teri-Savage said. “The guys are exhausted. Once you’ve been plowing for six or eight hours, your legs go numb.”

The nine-person crew flourishes in the worst conditions because lives depend on it. They have even brought in colleagues who couldn’t drive themselves due to conditions. “It’s important that everyone who has to be is here,” Teri-Savage said. “No matter what, you have to be here for the patients.”

The CHH facilities team pose with some of their winter weather equipment. From left to right, they are: John Hudson, Alan Baker, Mark Bakula, Tony Fillie, Greg Lemieux, Tony Recinos, Tom Renehan, Gus Simoulidis, Aldo Tartaglino and Director George Teri-Savage. Missing from the photo is Tim Hayes.

Photo by Lou Russo