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Less than a week away from the first day of spring, Blizzard Stella blew in before dawn on Tuesday, March 14, her wind and snow covering the landscape by sunrise. Residents woke to an icy precipitation whipping sideways and continuing through early afternoon, leaving behind nearly a foot of accumulation, according to Public Works Director Fred Hurley; but what began as a light snowfall soon became damp with sleet.
A wet, heavy snow totalling roughly 10-12 inches awaited to be tackled by shovels and snowblowers. Flurries continued throughout the evening and by Wednesday morning another dusting of snow covered walkways.
Despite Tuesday’s messy weather, “We lucked out a couple of ways,” said Mr Hurley. He noted that Stella “tracked west” of the region “so we ended up with sleet and rain but dodged about [an additional] six inches of snow accumulation.”
“And the timing wasn’t bad,” he said. His crews arrived to work approximately when the storm began at 2:30 am, Tuesday morning. “The whole crew was on board by 3:30 am. They started with salt and sand to minimize bonding of hard pack on the road,” Mr Hurley said.
Clearing began and they “broke around midnight once all roads were plowed and [Wednesday] there is a lot of slushing as hard pack melts,” he said on March 15. Crews resumed work Wednesday to “get that off the road. It’s more cleanup.”
Considering the forecasted blizzard, Mr Hurley said that the storm “could have been a lot worse.” Other towns had a lot of tree damage, “but we weren’t one of them.”
The wind was “not as severe” in Newtown, which could have led to power outages, “but enough wind that [snow] didn’t build up on trees and wires,” Mr Hurley said. Newtown only had “a couple of trees down.”
Public Works is still within winter budget with salt and sand left, he said. All the equipment ran well, “really well. That helped us a lot,” he said. A couple of vehicles got stuck “but we got them out easily.”
Assistant Director of Parks Carl Samuelson said his department was at work on Wednesday clearing school and municipal lots. By 1 pm, he said, they were “in pretty good shape. Things went well.”
He encountered no equipment breaks or malfunctions during Stella, he said. He agreed it was “a good thing to close schools [Wednesday, as well as Tuesday], and give us chance to clear.”
Paid programming for senior citizens were also canceled. Senior Center Director Marilyn Place explained, “When the school is close there are no paid programs because we don’t want seniors to drive.” School closures, or early dismissal and delayed starts, usually indicate bad weather, Ms Place said.
The center on Riverside Road remained open, however. “And seniors were there,” she said. Also, “Our phone was never busier.”
Many people had tax-related questions, others were looking for snow removal, or other issues, she said. Seniors visiting the center were playing cards, asking tax questions, or stopping for a visit.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Ms Place said.
Snow, Fun, And Cold
According to the National Weather Service, “The powerful nor’easter that has plagued the northeastern US over the past two days is now beginning to weaken some and will continue lifting northward into Canada during the day Wednesday.”
Governor Dannel Malloy had imposed a statewide travel ban on all state roads from 5 am Tuesday morning through 5 pm. With the town essentially shut down during the storm, business as usual resumed Wednesday — almost.
Superintendent of Schools Dr Joseph V. Erardi had canceled Tuesday’s classes late Monday, March 13, ahead of the storm. Late Tuesday afternoon the superintendent again canceled another day of school, for March 14, citing through his Twitter feed “Deep concern with bus stops and transportation tomorrow….despite terrific work done by all … “Schools remained closed on March 15, and many secondary roads required cleanup.
Many residents enjoyed the second day off from school, which found many parents and children hitting the “slopes” at Treadwell Park. Steadying himself on the stone wall above a soccer field, Chris Daubert snapped into his skis. Below were a few friends packing down a mound of snow that he would use as a jump. Chris quickly slipped along the packed snow and caught a few feet of air on his way down the hillside.
Across the park were more than a dozen residents, some parents watching from the top of a rise, while others joined their children for a quick downhill rush on a tube or sled, sending them across an open field.
In light of continued cold weather, the Connecticut United Way reminded residents this week that they can find information on warming centers at uwc.211ct.org/get-help/warmingcenters/. Residents can also dial 211.
As slush began to melt, spots of sidewalk and pavement reemerged Wednesday afternoon. Despite Stella’s last-minute wintry hit, crocuses had already emerged last week, and spring waits patiently on the other side of this weekend — March 20.