Police seeing cases of 'snow rage'

Salem resident Howard Graichen is doing it right, shoveling snow from his driveway onto his own property. But some shovelers and plow drivers are dumping snow into public streets.

TIM JEAN/Staff photo

Everybody has heard of road rage, but now "snow rage" is becoming a common phrase.

That's because one snowstorm after another in the last month has left more than 4 feet of snow in Southern New Hampshire.

The snow is piling up and so are residents' frustrations, according to area police.

Police are experiencing an increase in calls from residents upset with neighbors or plow drivers who dump snow where it doesn't belong.

"People are putting it onto other people's property, they are putting it in the roadway," Salem police Lt. Joel Dolan said. "It's something we're keeping an eye on."

Town police logs, including in Salem, New Hampshire, are full of incidents in recent weeks where officers have been called to intervene in snow-related disputes.

Salem police responded Tuesday after a resident reported her car was hit by a plow that didn't stop.

After nearly a foot of snow fell last weekend, a Salem officer asked a plow operator to stop dumping snow in the middle of the street.

"I would say we're getting several calls after each storm," Dolan said.

There's even been some violence reported.

Last week, the operator of a front-end loader reported he was assaulted by a Salem resident. The resident claimed the driver dumped snow on his property. Police intervened and the matter was resolved. 

Dolan said there have been no arrests so far.  However, in nearby Merrimack, New Hampshire, police this week arrested an irate neighbor who blocked a plow that pushed snow across the entrance to his driveway. Menahem Lowry, 75, was charged with disorderly conduct and is to appear in court in March.  

Salem and other Southern New Hampshire communities have adopted ordinances aimed at cracking down on people who dump snow in the road or on other people's property.

The fines are usually $50 or $100, according to area police departments.

Sandown police Chief Joseph Gordon said his department has dealt with about two dozen "snow rage" incidents this winter, including one a few weeks ago involving an angry private plow driver.

"He would dump every bit of snow into the middle of the road and go to the next (driveway)," Gordon said. 

When the plow driver was advised by a highway department worker he wasn't allowed to leave snow in the middle of a street, the driver became confrontational, Gordon said.

"The guy brushed off his license plate and said, 'Give it to the authorities.' He was challenging him," Gordon said. "We will be watching that individual."

Gordon said he's especially concerned about snow being pushed into the road because it it can pose a safety hazard, often reducing a road to one lane.

Hampstead police had to resolve a dispute a few weeks ago after receiving a call about a plow driver from an upset homeowner.

"He was pushing the snow across the street and onto the neighbor's property," Lt. John Frazier said. "There was no altercation. The plow driver apologized."

Frazier and other police officials said while plow operators have a job to do, they have to follow the law just like everyone else.

But Gordon found out Tuesday it's not just plow drivers and people with snowblowers who are breaking the town's snow ordinance.

He encountered a woman in her 70s who was shoveling out her mailbox, dumping the snow in the road.

"She was violating the ordinance," Gordon said. "But she said, 'The snow is high, I can't throw it far."'

Gordon ended up shoveling out the mailbox himself.