Spring is in the air now, but it wasn’t that long ago that “Snowzilla” dumped double-digit levels of snow across the eastern United States. For many, the January snowstorm meant a snow day with warm drinks and snowball fights. Not so for employees of the Nashville, Tenn., District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
For this crew, members of Chattanooga, Local 2080, the snowstorm meant coming to work anyway, and for some staying through the weekend.
“They stayed overnight, covered numerous consecutive shifts, covered down on folks who couldn’t make it, stayed longer than required, or came in on a day off,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander to Clarksville Online, a local publication. “They kept our projects going through the storm. Leading folks like this is a privilege and an honor.”
The District covers three states, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky, and two river systems, the Cumberland and Tennessee. Local 2080 members work on hydropower generation at the Cumberland River and on navigational locks for both rivers, said Business Manager Terry L. Hudgins, also a senior mechanic at the Cheatham power plant.
Despite sleeping at work to ensure they’d make their next shift, or working extra shifts to cover for those who couldn’t make it in, District employees simply “did their normal duties,” Hudgins said.
“Our projects don’t get the luxury of ‘closing’ and our business must go on in spite of inclement weather,” said Nashville District Operations Chief Diane Parks to Clarksville Online.
Hudgins noted that some of the projects are in remote locations, making them especially difficult to access during inclement weather. Some areas barely have anything in terms of snow removal and some have steep grades of entry and exit, not to mention roads cut from rock bluffs resulting in vertical inclines.
Among the heroes were Local 2080 members Brad Wilkerson and Dirk Cundiff, both stewards. Cundiff, a senior shift operator, left his house two hours early to make sure he arrived on time. Normally the commute is 30 minutes.
“I knew it was snowing and I knew I had to get there, so I just got up a little earlier,” Cundiff said.
Leaving the plants unattended isn’t an option. They’re holding back lakes and it’s an issue of public safety. For Cundiff, Wilkerson and the others, this is simply their work and getting praise for it seems strange, like getting an award for, well, showing up.
“I don’t want to make it sound like we’re tooting our own horn,” Cundiff said. “This is just what we do. It’s the nature of the job and we take it very seriously. We understand that we have to be here.”
“The men and women who work here have dedication to their jobs, as well as each other, which gives me great pride in them and what we do for the public,” Hudgins said.
This isn’t even the first time that Local 2080 members have gotten such praise.
“Local 2080 was out there during the floods of 2013 too. This is how they are. It’s emblematic of their work ethic, day in and day out,” said Government Employees Department Director Dennis Phelps. “This is typical of our government employees everywhere across the country.”