February 14, 2014 10:29AM
By LESLIE ROVETTI
Sun Staff Writer
Westerly and Chariho schools were delayed one hour this morning and North Stonington schools started two hours late as a result of road conditions following Thursday’s storm of wet snow and rain and temperatures overnight that transformed much of the mess into ice. Stonington schools were scheduled to open on time.
Thursday’s storm started with a heavy snowfall during the morning hours and then changed to a cold, driving rain by late morning, with the resulting slushy mess raising concerns about flooding and icing across the region. Municipal public works departments were kept busy, and town officials were concerned about what could happen overnight. Overall, few problems were reported.
Westerly town Manager Michelle Buck, speaking about three hours after the snow turned to rain, said the town’s roads were in decent shape.
“They’re in pretty good condition, in my opinion,” she said. “The crew is still out there, working hard.”
There were some concerns about flooding on local roads, she noted. Buck was also keeping an eye on the temperature forecast, in case freezing temperatures turned the slush to ice.
Although regional supplies of road salt were running low, Buck said Westerly still had some left. In addition, the town has plenty of sand for the roads.
In Stonington, First Selectman Edward Haberek Jr., speaking from the passenger seat of one of the town’s plows Thursday afternoon, said the town was “doing OK.”
Plowing was ongoing, but two trucks had broken down, while others experienced smaller problems with the blades, or flat tires. Haberek’s major concern was blocked catch basins. There had already been flooding on Greenhaven and Stewart roads, he said.
Road salt was not a problem. Haberek said the town had picked up a few tractor-trailer loads from Pennsylvania earlier in the season, and received a new shipment Thursday morning. “We’re in good shape with salt right now,” he said.
Through his Twitter account, Haberek noted that a plow had struck a utility pole in the area of Richmond and Downer streets around noon, cutting off power to nine households. Power was restored about an hour later. Shortly after that, he reported that a FedEx delivery truck was stuck on Route 1 in Pawcatuck. Town Hall was closed for the day.
Another problem was getting the heavy slush off the road without damaging anything. “We have a number of mailboxes we’re dealing with,” he said.
He urged residents to clear their sidewalks because if the temperature dropped, ice would be much more difficult to remove than slush.
In Richmond, Town Administrator Rob Rock reported no major problems. Plowing was “pretty much done” by midafternoon, and after that, the public works crew was concentrating on keeping the waterways flowing, and not flooding.
Because the town’s road salt was back ordered, trucks were putting a layer of sand on the roads, without salt. Although the sand providea some traction, it doesn’t help melt the ice. “We’re asking people to take it extra slow,” Rock said.
Hopkinton Town Manager William A. McGarry said he was pleased with the condition of the town’s roads.
“Our DPW guys did an outstanding job,” he said. “Our roads are in terrific shape.”
Timothy Tefft, Hopkinton’s director of public works, said at 4:15 p.m. that he wasn’t aware of flooding problems yet, but didn’t rule out the possibility. The town received a salt delivery on Thursday, but it was less than what had been ordered.
By midmorning Thursday, North Stonington Town Hall was declared closed for the day and was not scheduled to reopen until midmorning today.
First Selectman Nicholas Mullane II said that although the snowfall was heavier than many expected, the towns plows were up to the task of keeping the roads safe for drivers. Preparations begin one day before the storm, when food is stocked in the town garage, the home base for the plows.
“They were called in at 4 a.m. to start,” Mullane said. The plan was to have the highway crew work until 6 p.m. and return to the garage, weather permitting, for dinner. “After that, they could be sent home for a few hours rest before returning at midnight for a second round if the snow picks up.”
The first selectman also said about 30 houses lost power on Anthony Road early Thursday and that Connecticut Light & Power crews were called immediately. By 3 p.m., the company reported no outages in southeastern Connecticut.
Salt wasn’t a problem in North Stonington, although Mullane said the town has used more this year than it usually does.
Flooding was a potential concern, he added, because ice and snow had built up along roadsides. Standing outside Old Town Hall, he noted that nearby Avery Lane was flooding. He said drivers shouldn’t assume that puddles on the road were shallow; the water could be disguising a deep hole.
In Charlestown, emergency management Director Kevin Gallup said he knew of no major problems caused by the storm, other than possibly a few damaged mailboxes.
He noted that the slushy snow, which is difficult to shovel, is also difficult to plow. “It’s terribly heavy snow,” he said.
But with schools closed, there were fewer vehicles on the road, which he said is helpful for the plows.
Gallup said Charlestown was well stocked up on salt prior to the previous storm.
He cautioned residents to be careful as they rid their driveways, sidewalks, and paths of the heavy slush.
“Go easy when you’re shoveling this stuff so you don’t have a heart attack,” he said.