Area road crews prepare for worst

Saturday February 9, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Snowmageddon. Snowpocalypse. Perhaps even snOMG!

Whatever you want to call Winter Storm Nemo, making its way up the coast, it has many in the Northeast bracing for the worst. Anywhere between 8 to more than 14 inches has been forecast for the Northeast and everyone has been advised to stay inside their homes.

But there remains one group that must always brave the weather to make conditions more tolerable for everyone else -- government road crews. The individuals tasked with making streets and roadways safer for the community work undesirable hours in frigid temperatures, but the supervisors of this area say they are prepared for whatever comes their way.

Steve Barrett, public works director in Brattleboro, said he spent the previous few days making sure all his road equipment was in good condition and does not have damage from past storms. He also said all the sand and salt needed are ready to go.

Barrett said his immediate plans are to monitor the storm and decide when to send his crews to clear the roads.

"I'm sitting here and looking at our crystal ball to see when that will happen and how much (snow) we will actually get," he said, adding that there could be an ice storm on Monday.

He said his crews are also responsible for snow removal on Western Avenue and Main, Canal, Flat and Elliot streets.

His long-term plans include following up on the town's roads the next few days.

Barrett said residents can help his crews by not parking their vehicles on the sides of the road so plow trucks can get through.

"This storm is good for us because it's more in the nighttime, and people know they should not be parked on the street anyway," he said.

He also said it is helpful if people shovel in front of their homes, as long as they don't dump snow back into a roadway, which creates more work for crews and a hazard to drivers.

He said a sidewalk tractor, which he described as a mini-tractor with a snowblower that can accommodate the width of a sidewalk attached to it. Also important, he noted, is to clear snow away from fire hydrants.

Rockingham Highway Supervisor Mike Hindes said this storm has been pretty routine as far as preparation goes.

"It's just more snow than we've been accustomed to the last couple of years," he told the Reformer.

He has made sure all his trucks are fueled up and his snowplow blades are in good shape.

"Everything is in working order," he said.

Hindes said the best thing to do is to stay at home until the storm is over and hoped most people stocked their homes with non-perishables and supplies in advance. Area supermarkets have been packed with people frantically purchasing items to prepare for the storm.

Hindes recommends not driving unless it is absolutely necessary and your vehicle has proper snow tires on. He said even vehicles with four-wheel drive are not invincible.

Bart Bevis, the road agent in Chesterfield, N.H., agreed that everyone should stay home to be safe.

"There's nothing that important that they have to get out there for," he said.

He said there is nothing different about preparing for this storm, saying all his trucks are ready. The last storm that truly tested his road crew, he said, occurred in October 2011.

Wilmington Road Supervisor Bill Hunt said he salted all the town's blacktops first thing Friday morning and is waiting to see what Nemo holds. He said he has heard anywhere from 8 inches to 3 feet could fall this weekend and said he has a full crew ready.

Halifax Road Commissioner Brad Rafus said his crew has been prepared since Thursday.

"We're probably not working until 11 p.m. but then we'll be back out there at 3 a.m.," he said.

The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security issued a statement advising all state residents how to remain safe this weekend. The pointers include using caution when digging out your home, keeping a flashlight and batteries in your home and car and listening to the radio for advisories.

"Vermonters who are able to help elderly neighbors and others who need assistance in removing snow are encouraged to do so. Residents are also asked to check on the welfare of elderly neighbors and those with special needs during the storm," the statement reads. "The elderly and those with special needs should contact their local power company and local community officials prior to the storm to alert them of those needs in the event of a power outage."

Domenic Poli can be reached at, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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