Summer has Dog Days and the climatological opposite of that is The Dead of Winter.

While things have been somewhat mild thus far, things are certainly going to get colder before they get warmer. That trend starts this weekend. While that thought might drive some to travel to warmer places, it got Michigan Department of Transportation Southwest Region spokesperson Nick Schirripa and the MDOT Office of Communication’s Courtney Bate thinking about embracing the cold.

After seeing a Twitter post showing a map from Scotland and the cleverly named plow trucks that were dotted across it, the wheels started turning.

The idea of naming MDOT’s plow trucks started to take shape. Schirripa said Bates took the reins and it grew from there.

“We threw the idea out on Twitter, and in a matter of hours, we had a few hundred suggestions. We realized it would get some legs and quickly,” Schirripa said. “We had the online name submission form up on the website from mid-January 2021 until June (2021). We wound up getting more than 15,400 submissions for just 330 plows.”

Schirripa said once the names were compiled, the work of narrowing it down started. That included multiple rounds of sifting through them. There was low-hanging fruit, like names that were easily considered “distasteful,” but Schirripa said the job got more difficult as they went on.

After that first cut, Schirripa said there were 10,000 to 11,000 names left. Then the names were divided into the different MDOT regions and things that could be copyright issues or had double meanings were next on the chopping block. After that round, Schirripa said the names were down to 7,000 to 8,000.

The process continued with Bates and her daughters diving head first into the job.

By winter 2021, Schirripa said about one-third of the plow trucks were named. The process continued to find the rest of the names were determined. He said recently the final names were decided and uploaded to the MiDrive website.

With the daunting process of going through more than 15,000 names complete, Michigan residents and visitors who utilize the MiDrive website might find the names of Derek Sleeter, Rupert Slushington IV or Rusty McSaltmeister out and about.

Other names, from the Grand and North regions, include Fast and Flurryous, Jon Bon Snowi, Scooper McGavin, Sleetwood Mac, Alice Scooper, Frostin Powers, Han Snow-Lo, Plowzilla, Scoop Dogg and Snowbegone Kenobi. Schirripa said the names aren’t actually on the plows, but that could be something that is done in the future.

“We haven’t done this before, so this is new to us as well. We needed to essentially start from scratch. There are no policies in place,” he said. “It started with let’s name them and what names can we use and what names can’t we use.”

Schirripa said earlier in the process the idea was to put the names on the plow trucks but it was decided to not do that right away for a couple of reasons. First, he said safety was a big reason. The idea was to have fun, but they didn’t want to have people driving down the highway trying to take pictures.

Then there was the cost and uniformity. Schirripa said because MDOT is a state agency, there needs to be a policy in place about who would do it, how it would be accomplished and how would it be funded. He also said there needed to be a majority of the plow operators to buy into the idea of having the plows named.

“It is more than just putting a name on a plow. There was a lot to consider,” he said.

While many of the names are meant to be funny, Schirripa said he was happy that they also brought attention to the importance of the plow truck drivers and the important job they do for the residents and visitors of Michigan.

“It humanizes some of the most important people working for us — our plow drivers,” he said. “They are doing some of the most dangerous work we do. It brings attention to them and the work they do.”

As for whether Plowzilla, Scoop Dogg and Snowbegone Kenobi are going to be out on the roads this weekend, Gaylord National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Boguth said there likely won’t be a lot of snowflakes in the air, but it will be cold.

Thursday was probably the warmest day moving into the weekend. He said the cold moved in starting Thursday night and the coldest temperatures would be on Friday and into Saturday. Highs for Friday were supposed to be in the low teens, with lows Friday night near 0. It was going to be similar on Saturday and Saturday night.

That, however, didn’t take into account the wind chill.

“It’s nothing extreme and no records will be broke, but it is going to feel like mid-January,” he said.

Staff Writer/Reporter

Son, brother, husband, father, friend, writer, beekeeper, gamer, beard growing all around good guy. I cover Wexford County government, cops and courts, CAPS, Pine River Area Schools, the Marion area, some sports and any other stories that come my way.