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The D.C. area started off 2022 with a snowstorm that covered parts of the region in up to a foot of snow, and while many had the chance to relish in the winter wonder with their families, others woke up to some arduous work.
Hundreds of snow shovelers, many of them Latino immigrants, had their hands full Monday, working under harsh conditions and sacrificing their health and time with their loved ones to clear sidewalks and walkways for the community.
Their risky work started Sunday, before it was time to pick up a shovel, as they treated pathways with salt.
“This work is demanding because you’re working in low temperatures late into the night without being able to be with your family, and honestly sometimes you don’t even have a place to go to the bathroom,” Isaí Guifarro said of his work. “It’s complicated.”
No matter how much snow is stuck on the sidewalk, Guifarro’s salary remains the same. He and other shovelers get home exhausted after putting in long hours of work that are often thankless.
Beatriz Castro also understands the struggle. She longs to be the mom playing in the snow with her son, but said she needs to work.
“We’re all here out of necessity, enduring the cold, hunger and an urge to go to the bathroom for example,” Castro said. “I have a son, and I’d like to be spending time with him, for example making snowmen… watching a movie or something. But my need calls me to come to work.”
There’s not a whole lot residents can do to change the nature of Castro’s or Guifarro’s work, but they can help lighten the load.
If you can warm them up with a cup of coffee or offer hot food to fuel them, the gesture would be most welcome. And it’s one you can do with your kids.
“It’d be great with this cold for those of us out here working to get rid of the snow to get a little coffee, or hot chocolate. Something warm would do wonders,” shoveler Lindolfo López said through smiles.
And although López and others do extraordinary work, the responsibility also falls on homeowners to clear their sidewalks. They could even face consequences for not doing so, depending on the area.
“If you live in a house or townhouse, we’ve got a responsibility to clear snow from private entryways,” Lorna Virgili, a Montgomery County spokesperson, said.
And again, if there’s a walkway in front of a home, residents should clear that, too.
“You have 24 hours to clear the snow from that sidewalk. If you don’t, you could get a $50 fine,” Virigli said.”But the main message from authorities is obviously that we should be good neighbors.”