Blizzard wreaks havoc in the Quiet Corner

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Feb. 12, 2013
The Rawitscher property in Mansfield after the blizzard. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

The snow began to fall at approximately 8 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, and accumulated rapidly. By mid-morning, Gov. Dannel Malloy had declared a state emergency. "People need to take this storm seriously. If current predictions are accurate, we will need people to stay off the roads so that emergency personnel and utility crews can get to the places they need to get to and to make sure that our plows can keep critical roadways clear," he said at a mid-morning press conference. The governor issued a travel ban beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday, prohibiting non-emergency travel on all limited-access highways throughout the state.

The Hebron area was reported to be among the top locations in the state for accumulated snowfalls state-wide by nightfall, with Colchester coming in at 21 inches. Coventry was not far behind, with a reported 20 inches of snow.

Residents awoke Saturday morning to find more than 2 feet of snow, with another 3 to 6 inches expected by the time the snowstorm moved out of the region by early afternoon. Total snowfall for the Quiet Corner registered in the 3-foot range. The travel ban was officially lifted at 4 p.m. on Saturday. “While we are lifting the ban on travel this afternoon at 4 p.m., I still want to urge residents to stay off the roads if at all possible,” Malloy said. Some local roads remained unplowed by Saturday afternoon.

While high winds during the storm were expected to cause numerous power outages, the Windham/Mansfield region was largely spared this inconvenience, with few outages reported. State-wide, there were reportedly close to 30,000 outages at the height of the disruption.

On Sunday, Malloy announced that his request for a presidential emergency declaration in the wake of Friday’s historic winter storm had been approved. He urged residents to continue staying off the roads unless travel was absolutely necessary.

On Monday, many school districts remained closed, as towns struggled to complete road-clearing and another round of wintry weather complicated the situation. A winter weather advisory issued at 8:26 a.m. on Monday warned of freezing rain and sleet, with potentially a mix of snow, with accumulations of up to 1 inch. Precipitation was expected to change over to rain at 11a.m., prompting concerns regarding localized flooding due to snow-filled gutters and drains.

George Rawitscher, emeritus professor of physics at UConn, toughed out the blizzard at his Mansfield home with his wife, Joyce. “During the winter, my husband and I turn our rather large house into a ‘cabin’ by heating only our kitchen and dining room with a pellet stove. An electric blanket suffices at night,” said Joyce.The Rawitschers said they were prepared for the storm, with a pot of homemade soup, but were very grateful that they hadn’t lost electricity. “It was beautiful to watch," George said.

“We are having unusual storms lately,” added George. “Sandy is one, and now the Blizzard of 2013. This storm was due to the confluence in the same geographic area of three separate storms - a very unlikely occurrence.” Rawitscher said that, while one cannot blame any specific storm on global warming, “their occurrence is compatible with their enhanced probability, that in turn is directly related to global warming,” he said. Rawitscher referred to the work of Dr. James Hansen, world renowned climatologist, for a scientific explanation of this enhanced probability. “Our country’s leaders must take climate change very seriously and allocate appropriate resources,” he said.

The Rawitschers, who were snowed in until their driveway was plowed, had been passing the time with books. “I have been reading aloud to my husband from Christiane Ritter’s ‘A Woman In The Polar Night,’ about wintering over in 1936 on the island of Spitsbergen, north of Norway,” said Joyce. “But on Friday evening, with fear of losing power, I just couldn’t read from it and switched to ‘The Little Prince,’ instead.”

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