It was a Friday morning in late January and Cliff Cunningham was driving through the rain on Johnson Road. A year ago that would have been snow and Cunningham would be heading to work.
But not this year, this year hasn’t been good for the snow plow business.
“It’s been miserable,” concedes Cunningham of Clipco Landscaping. “It balances out over the years. We worked very hard last year. We’re hardly working right now.”
According to Acting Department of Public Works Director Jay Gill, Winchester has had 11 inches of snow this season. He said that over the last four years the town has averaged 60 inches of snow and at this time last year, 50.5 inches had already fallen.
Fifty-degree days and January rainstorms aren’t too common for those that call Massachusetts their home. And while the warm weather has kept the snow out of the area, it has also prevented landscape companies, like Clipco, from doing their winter work.
“It’s frustrating because we live in New England and it’s the winter,” said Cunningham, whose Winchester-based company has plowed St. Mary’s for the last two years. “It should be snowing. But just because of the way the weather’s been, there’s been little snow. What do you do? It’s been very hard.”
Last year at this time, Gill said that the town needed to call in outside plow companies, like Clipco, 14 times. This year, Winchester has called eight times. And according to Gill, the town has only used 30 percent of its snow removal budget. A year ago, Winchester spent $550,000 of its $400,000 budget.
After last year’s multiple blizzards and this year’s early snowstorm, Cunningham admitted that he was hopeful for another lucrative winter.
“I thought we were in for a good winter [after the Halloween snowstorm],” Cunningham said. “Boy, were we fooled.”
Having been in the business for over a decade, Cunningham knows to put money aside in case of a poor winter, but the lack of snow won’t just hurt his pocket for the winter months. Cunningham said that his landscaping business could also suffer from the lack of plowing opportunities.
“You always save money in case it doesn’t snow,” Cunningham said. “I have money to get me and my family through these months. We’re not going out, spending like we did last year.
“But we’ll be struggling in the spring. A lot of landscapers use their plowing money to buy new equipment and to get a head start on the spring season. We’re not going to be able to do that this year. We’re going to get off to a late start in the spring and that could hurt us. It’s not just one season, it’s a trickle-down effect.”
With at least six more weeks of winter, Cunningham will continue to monitor the weather forecasts, hopeful that temperatures will begin to drop and snow will move in to the region.
“It’s been frustrating,” Cunningham said. “You prepare in the fall for a slow winter, but you just hope and pray that we get some snow. There’s still time.”