When you see clear roads in the mountain passes and on the highways during the holidays, think of Dennis Keeler.
Keeler has worked for the Washington State Department of Transportation for 26 years – most of those plowing a path on I-90 through Snoqualmie Pass.
He and hundreds like him work hard 12-hour shifts in the cold and wind clearing the region's roads for holiday travelers.
More often than not, that includes working a long shift on Christmas.
“It’s something you really don’t want to do, but it’s part of the job,” said Keeler, a maintenance technician. “I figure if I work, maybe everybody else can have Christmas dinner with their kids and their families. I’ve done it for 26 years.
“My kids, my wife, they understand it. They may not like it, but they understand it. It goes with the territory.”
Keeler figures he’s worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas during 20 of his 26 years with the state.
“I love plowing snow. I plowed for 23 years up on Snoqualmie Pass, so I had to like the snow somewhat. I like doing highway maintenance.”
Keeler’s five kids – four sons and one daughter – are grown. Keeler also has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“That’s the thing I’m going to miss at Christmas dinner is my great-grandkids, but they’ll ask, and grandma will tell them: Grandpa’s working.”
After nearly two weeks of snow storms in the Puget Sound area, WSDOT’s snow plows are a familiar and often welcome sight.
Keeler said he’s been getting more thumbs up and honks of appreciation than usual.
Even so, we’re all waiting for the winter weather to warm up.
“It gets old, but we keep on pluggin’,” Keeler said.
To see photos of what it's like from the driver's seat of a snowplow, check out our Flickr site.