BRATTLEBORO -- New Englanders are not strangers to snowstorms. And it seems as though many locals were able to avoid the potential problems and accidents which could have come with yesterday's winter blast by taking heed of warnings from officials and meteorologists.
Most nearby communities were spared the barrage of emergency calls Thursday, leaving some officials to believe residents are learning to better prepare for winter weather and to not take unnecessary risks.
Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn said there had not been any accidents on town roads and suggested perhaps more people are adjusting their speeds appropriately and increasing their brake time. He said giving oneself more time to stop a vehicle is crucial to reducing the risk for an accident or injury, as well as always wearing seatbelts and having snow tires on the vehicle. Wrinn said snow tires, as opposed to all-season tires, are designed for wintertime precipitation and add much-needed traction to help a vehicle stop and go in the snow.
He also said the fact that area school children are on winter break probably contributed to the lack of accidents because parents were not spending extra time on the roads driving their sons and daughters to school and most teenage drivers stayed indoors.
Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake said the weather slowed down traffic dramatically Thursday and there were no accidents reported as of 1:30 p.m. He said most people probably got their important tasks completed Wednesday in anticipation of the storm.
"People are staying inside, doing the smart thing," he said. He advised everyone to avoid driving unless it is absolutely necessary.
Rockingham Highway Department Supervisor Mike Hindes said he started work at 2 a.m. on Thursday, when there was about two inches of snow of the ground. He said parts of Bellows Falls had as much as six or seven inches by 1:30 p.m.
Hindes said his crew started salting roads at 9:30 a.m. and were finished by 11:30. He said the roads were being scraped constantly starting at 3 a.m.
"We're doing well. This is a good, old-fashioned New England snowstorm. It's about time," he said. "The roads are a bit greasy, but that's the nature of the beast."
He said he has a seasoned crew of 11 full-time workers in addition to two part-timers to take care of sidewalks and four people who shovel.
Not every nearby town was as fortunate as Brattleboro or Rockingham, as the Vernon Police Department reported a two-vehicle accident at approximately 12:06 p.m.
After returning from the scene, Police Chief Mary Beth Hebert said a man was operating a sedan on Route 142 when the vehicle slid on snow and veered into the other lane, where it struck a plow truck and knocked the plow off. Hebert said there were no injuries but the sedan was likely totaled.
Officer Noah Sanctuary, of the Walpole (N.H.) Police Department said a few vehicles swerved off the road Thursday but there were no major accidents, as the highway department spent the day clearing the streets. He advised all drivers to keep a greater distance between them and the vehicle in front of them in case of emergency stops.
Wilmington Town Clerk Suzie Haughwout said it was quiet in her neck of the woods and the office had no customers all day. She said she noticed Route 9 was covered with snow on her way in to work but called it "normal Vermont living."
Lake, from Bellows Falls, said it is important to plan for any type of storm, whether it brings snow, hurricane winds or hail. He said all preparations should be taken the day before a storm is believed to strike.
Wednesday was a busy day at Fireside True Value on Putney Road, where head cashier JoAnna Babbitt said people came in droves to purchase shovels and salt. She said Thursday morning also saw a bit of a rush, but business slowed down by the afternoon because most people were in their homes waiting out the storm. She said she expects more customers to get equipment and supplies once the current storm subsides.
Lamont Barnett has owned The Rock and Hammer jewelry store at 26 The Square for about 23 years and said fewer customers walking through the door during storms is nothing new.
He said Thursday was slower in terms of the number of people in the store but said sales were average. He credited the slow-down to both the weather and the fact that the holiday shopping season is over. He added, however, that Wednesday was quite busy.
Barnett, who does not have an online store, said business typically picks back up fairly quickly after a storm.
"As long as they keep the streets cleared, people will be out and about again (today)," he said.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.