WESTERLY — The third nor’easter in less than two weeks lived up to its billing Tuesday, dumping close to a foot of snow throughout southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. The forecast had called a foot of snow or more, but by midafternoon, total snowfall in most coastal areas was only about 8 inches.
Alan Dunham, a meteorologist in the Taunton, Mass., office of the National Weather Service, said he expected that a few more inches would fall before the storm ended Tuesday night, pushing the totals to around a foot.
“You’ve got a pretty good band that’s been sitting on you for a little while,” he said late Tuesday afternoon. “The heaviest band should lift out, and then you’ll have just lighter snow through the better part of the evening hours. Maybe another inch or two accumulation after that.”
The storm had begun moving away, but such a large weather system, Dunham said, would take a while to move out completely.
“The winds are doing a lot better than they were. They’re basically north-northwest 15, gusting to 25 miles per hour or so.”
While the heavy snow proved to be a challenge for the electrical grid and local communities trying to dig out, early notification and preparation led to numerous closures, reducing the number of vehicles on the road and greatly reducing the number of accidents during the course of the storm.
Westerly Police Capt. Shawn Lacey and Stonington Police Capt. Todd Olson both described Tuesday’s responses as “routine,” saying that as of midafternoon there were few accidents and none involving injuries to report.
“I think, when you look around, there was plenty of advance notice this time, so many people were listening to the warnings and staying at home or off the roads,” Lacey said. “It certainly helps to minimize response needs when there are fewer drivers on the road.”
Lacey said the biggest issues were not response needs, but rather partial lane closures or road hazards created by downed wires and fallen trees. Westerly had only a few instances through the day, he said, but other towns were not so lucky.
In Hopkinton, officials were busy throughout the day. Emergency responders found themselves working alongside public works crews throughout the day, addressing more than a dozen partial road closures that occurred as a result of the storm.
Richmond officials were also busy with similar experiences in the morning, Town Administrator Karen Pinch said, but as the snow became lighter and drier later in the day, the level of damage declined and the town was able to address problem areas.
Both Rhode Island and Connecticut state police also reported a lighter number of crashes and spinouts during the recent storm than in the past two nor’easters. According to spokeswoman Laura Meade Kirk, Rhode Island troopers had responded to just six minor crashes and eight instances of disabled vehicles during the first 12 hours of the storm, but seven more crashes and 19 disabled vehicles were reported between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m.
“Few crashes have been reported since midnight, however Col. (Ann) Assumpico attributes this to the fact that motorists have heeded the warnings to stay off the roads,” Kirk said.
In Connecticut, state police had been quite a bit busier, with 810 calls for service and 75 accidents between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., including two with injuries. No serious accidents were reported in southeastern Connecticut.
Town Manager Derrik M. Kennedy said Westerly fared well overall during Tuesday’s snowstorm, with no significant problems. Police responded to a few minor accidents and about 12 tickets were issued to people who violated the no-parking ban. About four vehicles were towed. The ban remained in place through the evening to give plow drivers ample space to continue their work.
All of the town’s schools had power as of about 6:30 p.m. and Kennedy said plans were for Town Hall to be open Wednesday.
As of 3:40 p.m. 11.3 inches of snow had fallen in Westerly, according to a National Weather Service trained spotter. Kennedy said the town’s supply of sand is sufficient to get through the storm, but more will have to be ordered. The town’s plows and other snow-removal equipment remains in good shape, Kennedy said.
Police reported all roads were passable as of about 6:40 p.m. At the peak of power outages, about 600 customers were without power in the town. That number had been reduced to about 150 as of early evening.
At 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Eversource reported 66 power outages in Stonington, which First Selectman Rob Simmons said were centered around Al Harvey Road and Jerry Browne Road. Four hours later, only eight customers were out of power.
The storm was winding down, but icy conditions were developing on the roads, Simmons said.
“The snow has let up a little bit but the temperatures have dropped a few degrees so the conditions out on the road are icy and dangerous,” he said. “I’ve been out there driving around, and it’s mostly pickup trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles or SUVs, but there’s not a lot of traffic, which is good.”
The three state roads that run through Stonington — Route 1, Route 2 and Pequot Trail (Route 234) — have not been plowed as thoroughly as the town’s roads, Simmons said.
“When I came back from the police station they had only plowed one lane of Route 1, so they’ve got to keep it up,” he said. “Those three roads cover a substantial portion of the town; that’s why we’re advising people to stay off the roads.”
Earlier in the day, I-95 was closed because of an accident, which pushed some car and commercial truck traffic onto the side streets in Stonington, but the wreck was cleared, Selectman John Prue said in a video address posted on the town’s website.
Within the town, no accidents were reported and the roads were mostly free of traffic as of late afternoon, said Captain Todd Olson.
“When a storm comes and it shuts down the whole day and people don’t go to work and don’t go to school and stay off the roads, it makes a huge difference in things we need to respond to,” he said.
In Richmond, there were fewer than 500 outages reported by late afternoon, but Pinch, the town administrator, said the majority of the customers would not have their power back on Tuesday. Most of the outages were north of Route 138.
“Only about 50 are expected back on today by 10 p.m — the rest by noon tomorrow [Wednesday],” she said. “There are still four that might not get it back on until midnight tomorrow.”
Approximately 2,500 Hopkinton residents were without power at the peak of the storm. Emergency Management Director Ron MacDonald said National Grid crews were working to repair two main power lines, one in Hope Valley and the other in Ashaway.
“Those two main feeders, I guess, is what they think has most of the people out, but I’m assuming some of the isolated houses in parts of town they can’t get at right now are probably going to be restored [Wednesday] at the latest,” he said.
National Grid spokesman Ted Kresse said crews were working to restore power in the two towns, but had been hampered by strong winds, which began to diminish in the late afternoon.
“There are crews on both issues,” he said. “The question is how much they can get done with this wind. Hopefully, these crews will be able to continue their work for the rest of the afternoon, but conditions could change that.”
Kresse said the heavy, wet snow that fell in the morning had been a principal contributor to the outages.
“It definitely contributed to the outages we’re seeing,” he said. “If we’d had light and fluffy, we would have seen fewer. That heavy wet stuff took a toll.”
Things were improving along the coast in Charlestown by late afternoon.
Charlestown reported 434 power outages at 5 p.m., according to National Grid. That was down from 783 a few hours earlier.
Emgergency Services Director Kevin Gallup said that this time around, outages were less than the previous two storms in recent days.
In North Stonington, Eversource reported an increase in outages by 5:15 p.m. to 328 customers, or 13 percent of the town. That number dropped to 37 by about 8:30 p.m.
First Selectman Mike Urgo said residents who see wires down should report it to Eversource. The emergency operations center at Town Hall was partially open, he said.