Low: Two words we’d like to forget from the week that was: polar vortex. That’s what caused the abnormally cold weather that led to car batteries dying, frozen pipes bursting, faces frowning and even small “icebergs” floating in the Pawcatuck River. “I’ve never seen anything that big and that high,” Westerly’s Don Eldridge, who’s lived by the river for 40 years, said Tuesday of the chunks of ice. The single-digit temperatures caused pipes to burst at the Westerly Public Library, the Hampton Inn in Mystic and in “a good 15 houses,” reported Sam Bliven Jr. Plumbing & Heating of Westerly. Fortunately, temperatures were more seasonal as the week progressed, and by Saturday, we had wind, rain and temperatures in the 50s (that’s New England weather for you). Even more promising if you can’t wait to put winter behind you, Cleveland Indians pitchers and catchers report for spring training in just 29 days.
High: The acquisition and performance of The Westerly Hospital were praised during the annual meeting of L+M Healthcare on Thursday. During the first four months under L+M’s ownership, the hospital posted a 2 percent operating margin, which has “already met or exceeded our expectations,” said Bruce Cummings, L+M Healthcare president and CEO. (L+M Healthcare acquired The Westerly Hospital on June 1.) Cummings added that given the hospital’s performance in the last four months of fiscal 2013, it’s “on track to fund its own capital renewal.” L+M, as part of the court-approved deal to acquire the hospital, has committed to a $30 million capital spending plan at Westerly.
High: The Hopkinton Town Council unanimously passed three zoning amendments, allowing for the construction of a solar energy project in Hope Valley that would generate enough electricity to supply at least 100 homes. The 1,500-panel solar array is to be built by Megawatt Energy Solutions on 2½ acres of vacant land at 45 Bank St. Councilor David Husband, who lives near the site, said he welcomed the project. “I know that piece of property well, and it’s a wonderful use of the property,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to bother the neighbors. I’m all for it. I really am.” After the council’s unanimous approval, the developer must now go back to the planning board with a detailed site plan. “They’ve got to go through that,” council President Frank Landolfi said. “... With all the restrictions that have been put forward on this project, it will hopefully pass.”
High: Zodiacal light can be seen once again in Charlestown, a result of the town’s dark sky ordinance. The ordinance regulates commercial outdoor lighting in order to improve the town’s dark sky for star-gazers, and to protect residents, wildlife and light-sensitive plants from the effects of light pollution. “Zodiacal light is a common marker for the quality of a dark-sky location,” said Scott MacNeill, the assistant director of the Frosty Drew Observatory and Nature Center at Ninigret Park. “To see it in New England, period, is amazing.” The light is a product of cloud-dust particles, asteroid fragments and comets passing through the solar system, and it appears as a glow extending up from the horizon. It’s so faint that any light pollution will render it invisible. “I would never expect to see it in Rhode Island,” MacNeill said. “That really blows my mind.” Thanks to the ordinance, Charlestown is recognized as one of the only dark spots on the New England coast.