After several weeks of a deep freeze - and equally deep snow - the temperature is starting to rise, the rains have come, and we all are waiting breathlessly for the first real sign of spring.

The last time I recall a winter this tough was back in 1993. It too had all the same trappings of this year - lots of snow storms that just seemed to arrive right after we finished digging out from the last one; road salt and cinders in very short supply; and a general weariness from a lot of folks that we just want the winter to end. Period.

Every February is the same for me. I can't wait for it to be over. And I was born in this month! But it represents the end of the coldest of the months, and as a result it always seems to be the longest of months - even though the calendar disputes my contentions. However, the calendar doesn't have to deal with the fact that since late November, I've had to deal with cold, snow, ice, and just about everything else that makes winter such a chore for me. So when February rolls around, I start really looking forward to the month being over, and I can start enjoying warmer weather.

Oh sure. March has its cold spots, and I've even seen it snow in April. But you know that it's only temporary at that point, that soon the temperatures will rise again, the roads will clear, and the days will no longer seem like brief interludes between nights.

Like I said, it has been a particularly tough winter, both around here and for many other parts of the country as well. So this week, I'm going to commend those people who have had to go outside no matter how bad the storms, just to make certain the rest of us can continue to get around - both when the snows come, and afterward.

I'm talking about the road crews who keep the street and highways plowed, even in the most dire conditions. PennDOT workers, as well as county and local government employees have risen to the occasion many times during this past winter - and many other winters as well - working hard at keeping the roads clear. Those folks go out, no matter how late or how early, running the snow plows, cindering and salting the roads to make certain the rest of us can get through. It's a tough job - many times crews have to work 12-hour shifts if the weather gets bad enough, driving back and forth across main roads, off roads, and just about everywhere else, doing their best to keep them clean. And with Old Man Winter really sowing his oats this past season, it has been a considerable challenge indeed.

And while I'm on the subject, I think I should also commend a number of other folks who have also worked hard at keeping things going during this past winter. First, there is the police - both state and local. These folks have to come out during traffic accidents even in the worst weather to make reports and make certain everything continues to run smoothly. Also, let's not forget the emergency responders - fire departments, paramedics, ambulance crews, etc. - who also arrive at the scene in the cold and snow to provide medical assistance, remove damaged vehicles, and provide transportation to the local hospital, if necessary.

Then there's the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other similar groups, who provide emergency services in other areas - such as shelter if a family is left homeless by a fire; and home heating if a family cannot pay their bills. These folks can be a godsend in the winter when the alternative would be very unpleasant indeed.

These are but a few of the dedicated people who have worked very hard this past winter to make certain that the winter did not become even harder without their invaluable help. To that I say, thank you very much for a job well done, and keep up the excellent work.

C.J. Marshall is a writer and columnist for The Daily Review. He can be reached at cjmarshall@thedailyreview.com.