Area hit with back-to-back snow falls, record lows

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Mon., Jan. 6, 2014
The path leading to the Douglas Library is cleared of snow on Friday, Jan. 3, after the second snowfall in 24 hours the night before. Photos by Melanie Savage.
The path leading to the Douglas Library is cleared of snow on Friday, Jan. 3, after the second snowfall in 24 hours the night before. 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, some area superintendents decided upon an early closure for the day. Columbia and Franklin both went this route. But Andover and Hebron superintendents decided to cancel classes for the day.

“You kind of could go either way,” said Hebron Superintendent Jeffrey Newton, speaking on Thursday morning from his office at Gilead Hill School. Newton had been up since before dawn, with an eye on computer weather forecasts. Newton said that decisions are based on a number of factors, including weather forecasts and reports from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works. “I think we made a good call,” he said, mentioning a bus accident that had been reported in Ansonia. “That kind of thing makes me nervous,” said Newton. “First and foremost is the safety of the kids.”

Newton said that he’d continue to keep an eye on weather reports. Hebron parents eventually received a phone call by 8 p.m. on Thursday evening, notifying them that school would be closed again on Friday, Jan. 3. Other local districts followed suit, making early decisions to cancel school.

The overnight, second snowfall dumped a total of between 5 and 7 inches on the area, according to Hebron Director of Public Works Kevin Kelly. “The snow was difficult to measure due to the wind,” he said. “My best guess is around 6 inches, which is in the range that the forecasters predicted.” Kelly said that the most difficult part of the storm was the duration. “The state police reported slippery conditions at midnight on Wednesday, so that is when we started calling the crews out,” he said. “They finished cleaning up at 4 p.m., on Friday.”

Exacerbating matters were freezing temperatures, with record cold expected during the overnight into Saturday. “The problem with the cold temperatures is that it seems to cause mechanical issues,” said Kelly. “We had numerous breakdowns throughout the storm. From hydraulic failures to broken sander chains, the colder weather stresses the fleet.” Another concern in colder weather is diesel fuel. “We place additional additive in the tanks to assure that the diesel doesn't gel in the colder weather,” said Kelly. At temperatures below 10 or 15 degrees, “salt treatments don't work as quickly,” said Kelly, “although the treated salt that we are using seems to be working up to our expectations.”

Asked about the impact on the town’s snow removal budget, Kelly said, “It's only the beginning of January and the Public Works crew has already been called out 11 times, which includes the snow events and icy conditions.” If the weather pattern remains the same, “the winter budget will soon be exhausted,” he said.

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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