Town completes challenging blizzard cleanup

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Feb. 15, 2013
A street sign on the corner of Forbes Street and Silver Lane in East Hartford fell over during the storm. Silver Lane was not completely plowed as of Feb. 12. Photo by Evan Pajer.
A street sign on the corner of Forbes Street and Silver Lane in East Hartford fell over during the storm. Silver Lane was not completely plowed as of Feb. 12. Photo by Evan Pajer.

On Feb. 8, a blizzard dumped a massive amount of snow on Connecticut, with many areas in the center of the state receiving as many as 30 to 40 inches of precipitation. Among those towns was East Hartford, which faced some unique challenges in getting its roads cleared.

Mayor Marcia Leclerc said that the town faced some difficulties in clearing its roads because three of its major roads - Silver Lane, Main Street, and Burnside Avenue - are state roads that are serviced by state plows. "What the residents of East Hartford probably don't know is that the state is responsible for state roads," Leclerc said. "When the snow fell, they did not make those streets their focus - they focused on the highways. It was very important as we went through town to keep those roads open." As of the night of Feb. 12, four days after the storm hit, Silver Lane was not fully plowed, with some lanes still blocked by snow. State plows worked throughout that night to clear the remaining snow, which was gone by the next morning.

Another challenge for the town came in a limit to its vehicles. Leclerc said the town has only four trucks equipped to deal with heavy snowfall, and that two of them were dedicated to helping emergency response vehicles reach their destinations. Even so, Leclerc said, the town still had issues getting first responders to where they were needed. "We had an emergency response at an apartment complex where we had multiple plows respond," Leclerc said. "A Department of Transportation truck responded and got stuck, then our plows got stuck, and the fire truck was not able to have immediate access, so the firefighters had to get out on foot."

Leclerc said that while the town, unlike neighboring Hartford, did not have widespread violations of a parking ban that went into effect in advance of the storm, parked cars still got in the way of plowing in some areas. "When the plows would go through and people would do their driveways, they would need to move their cars into the road and block the one access point, so when plows would come through there was an issue with cars moving into the driveway," she said. Leclerc said that some of the town's roads were also too narrow to efficiently plow. "There are some roads that are small and there's nowhere to move the snow, and making only a narrow path through causes problems," Leclerc said. "We were very careful not to push such large amounts of snow into people's driveways and yards."

The town spent upwards of $200,000 clearing the snow from the blizzard, which Leclerc said accounted for most, if not all, of the town's snow clearing budget for the season. Leclerc said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse the town for 70 percent of that amount.

Despite two major snowfalls in three years, Leclerc said the town does not have the budget to purchase additional plow trucks. "We would not have the revenue to do that. We just wouldn't have the opportunity," she said. Leclerc said the town used four contractors with large plows to clear snow during the storm, in addition to its fleet of plows, and that the town would likely use a similar option if another blizzard hits.

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