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Heavy March Snow Keeps Plow Operators, Emergency Crews Busy

Published: March 8, 2018

Less than two weeks before the first day of spring, a heavy wet snowfall snapped countless trees, felled power lines, forced a statewide truck ban on highways, and kept all of Newtown’s plow drivers and emergency responders busy well into Thursday morning.

Locally, light wispy snow began swirling by around 9 am on March 7, trending heavier into the afternoon rush hour as intense bands of precipitation moved across the region, dumping accumulations of more than 14 inches by early evening.

Up to 24 inches fell locally in some spots by the time the storm moved off around 2 am Thursday according to National Weather Service spotters.

Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue had logged nearly 40 calls for service by 9:30 pm Wednesday, with each of the town’s other four fire companies staying very busy through the night as well.

At a Thursday morning press conference, Governor Dannel Malloy revealed that nearly 140,000 electrical utility consumers were still without power across the state. In Newtown at 9 am more than 2,400 of the town’s 11,300 Eversource customers — roughly 21 percent — were still without power.

“The guys stayed at it,” he said on a call around 9 am Thursday. “They did a good job and they’re still at it.”

Mr Tani said while most local roads were passable, he was still cautioning drivers to be watchful of downed and low-hanging wires.

Between 3:32 pm Wednesday and 6:26 am Thursday, local fire companies responded to a combined total of 77 calls for wires down, according to reports supplied by the dispatchers at Newtown Emergency Communications Center.

While on a call Wednesday, Sandy Hook’s Engine 442 was hit by a falling tree while on a call on Berkshire Road, but according to a company source no injuries were sustained and the vehicle was able to stay in service once the debris was cleared.

Firefighters also responded to two storm-related crashes, including one on Berkshire Road that sent a male driver to the hospital. Newtown police also responded to crashes on Wednesday, but that number was unavailable Thursday morning.

Newtown Volunteer Ambulance volunteers got something of a break, having only been called for service on three occasions between 3 pm Wednesday and 9:30 am Thursday according to an NVAC source.

All day shift Newtown Police officers and supervisors were on the road and responding to calls at press time March 8.

After initially announcing on Wednesday evening that there would be a two-hour delayed opening for schools on Thursday, Newtown Public Schools later updated that decision and canceled classes for Thursday.

Municipal employees, having been sent home at noon on Wednesday, then had a later start to their day on Thursday. Municipal offices opened at 10 am March 8.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said residents can use Newtown Municipal Center or Newtown Senior Center as locations to warm up if needed. Residents are also welcome to visit either location to charge mobile phones if they are without power or heat, and can make it safely to one or the other location, he added.

“I was out first with police and later with plow operators and it was bad,” Mr Rosenthal said Thursday, of the previous evening. “You could see trees sagging onto wires, and around 4 o’clock dispatch was coming on every few minutes with calls for fire and police to respond to trees and wires down.”

The first selectman said residents can check to determine whether an emergency shelter operation was going to be initiated. He said it would depend on whether most of the power outages around town were restored by later in the day.

Mr Rosenthal said that at 9 am Thursday, there were still 77 roads partially or fully closed in town.

After keeping nonessential state second and third-shift workers home on Wednesday, Gov Malloy called all nonessential, first-shift employees to work one hour later than their normal reporting time for Thursday.

Connecticut’s Emergency Operations Center remained active through the night and the governor said, and about 40 secondary roads remained closed. But, he added that highways are in good shape.

Gov Malloy asked anyone driving today to exercise caution as local roads remain slick in spots, and he appealed to residents who live adjacent to fire hydrants to help if possible by clearing a path to ease access if needed by firefighters.

“We could use your help to be sure your neighbors are safe,” the governor said. He also urged residents to check on the well being of elderly and frail neighbors.
As of 8:30 Thursday morning the Metro-North Danbury and New Canaan lines were still under suspended service until further notice.

The governor said Bradley International Airport remained open through the night, but numerous cancellations were expected to create delays into the afternoon. He encouraged air travelers to remain in touch with their carriers.

State police responded to 166 accidents through the duration of the storm, he said, with only six minor injuries reported. Gov Malloy said electric line personnel and tree resources were distributed statewide prioritizing public safety requests, and concentrating on the worst hit areas in southwestern Connecticut.

Gov Malloy reminded residents that if they are in need of shelter, they should call 211 for assistance.

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