Area hit by back-to-back snowfall, record-low temps

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Mon., Jan. 6, 2014
The foot bridge in downtown Willimantic was clear of snow and open to pedestrians the morning of Jan. 3. Photos by Melanie Savage.
The foot bridge in downtown Willimantic was clear of snow and open to pedestrians the morning of Jan. 3. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Mother Nature delivered a double whammy on Jan. 2 and 3, resulting in some local school children enjoying an extended winter break. Despite a light dusting of snow the morning of Jan. 2, with more expected for later in the day, area superintendents decided upon an early closure for the day.

Windham Superintendent Ana Ortiz said that she was closely watching weather reports on Thursday before making a decision regarding the following day, when the area was expected to be hit by a second, significant snowfall. “The decision to close, delay or early closure is made by consulting other superintendents in the area, the bus company, and Public Works,” said Ortiz.

The overnight, second snowfall dumped a total of between 5 and 7 inches on the area, prompting local districts to close for the day. Director of Public Works for Coventry, David Goldstein, said that the most difficult part of the storm was its duration. The past couple of years have produced large snowfalls of relatively short duration. Dealing with that type of event is straightforward. “You move the snow out of the way, and that’s it,” said Goldstein. “Here, it’s been long, drawn out, and not nearly as simple to deal with.” With 3 inches of snow falling over 24 hours, “There’s no easy way to accomplish it,” said Goldstein. “We have a finite number of people, and a finite number of roads to deal with.”

Exacerbating the situation were freezing temperatures on Friday, with record lows expected overnight. “Chemicals aren’t as effective in the cold,” said Goldstein. Asked about the effects of the storm on the town’s snow removal budget, “For the weather we’ve had, we’re where we should be,” said Goldstein. “But I have no way of knowing what the weather will do from now on.”

Director of Public Works for the town of Mansfield, Mark Kiefer, said the nature of Friday’s snowfall helped to lessen dangerous road conditions due to the cold. Despite the fact that chemicals don’t function as well in extreme cold, “the light, powdery nature of the snow allowed for better traction,” said Kiefer. But Mansfield’s crews were kept busy by the most recent storm. Called out to deal with Thursday’s snow, they worked overnight and through rush hour on Friday morning. After a short break, “We were back out on the roads until our cleanup was completed at about 3 p.m. on Friday,” said Kiefer.

The state did see record-breaking cold temperatures the morning of Saturday, Jan. 4, with Bradley International Airport reporting the temperature reaching 9 below zero. The previous record was minus 7, set in 1981.

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