Windham County works hard to clear out from latest Winter blast

Wednesday March 20, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Today may be the official start of spring, but flowers aren't abloom everywhere throughout the county.

Just as snow piled high by shovelers and plow trucks was melting away, a new storm slammed New England and dumped as much as a foot of the fluffy white stuff in certain parts of Windham County, Tuesday.

The storm seemed to approach in waves -- coming down heavily before tapering off and then starting again. The snow makes the roadways of Vermont and New Hampshire notoriously difficult to maneuver and crews were out since before dawn Tuesday, trying to keep the roads safe.

Steve Barrett, the director of the Brattleboro Department of Public Works, said this storm has been a challenge and his crew started battling it at 1:30 a.m. He said by Tuesday afternoon snow was falling at a rate of about an inch per hour and the department was working feverishly to clear the roads -- only to have more precipitation come.

"It's a mix of snow and slow," he said. "It's a gamut. ... It's tough to maintain the roadways."

Barrett also said the department has a sidewalk tractor, which he once described to the Reformer as a mini-tractor with a snowblower that can accommodate the width of a sidewalk attached to it, to keep sidewalks clear for pedestrians. He said Western Avenue is a particular point of interest.

He said there was a huge problem Tuesday with vehicles sliding off the road, some even blocking the flow of traffic. Barrett's department responds to cases of slide-offs in order to assist law enforcement and emergency personnel. This, he said, takes up a lot of time and makes it more difficult to clear roads because the routes to them are cut off.

Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn reiterated that point, and said slide-offs tend to take a lot of resources away from the Police Department and occupies the officers longer than typical issues.

Vermont State Police responded to a report of several tractor-trailers units stuck on Route 9 in Marlboro on Tuesday, shutting down the roadway for a few hours. State Police were also planning on closing Route 9 for roughly one to two hours beginning at 9 a.m. today. This closure will be in the area of Adams Cross Road, which is between Auger Hole Road and Butterfield Road (east of Hogback Mountain).

Police say all but one of the vehicles was able to get free with the assistance of the Vermont Agency of Transportation personnel on Tuesday. According to police, a 2005 Freightliner with a 53-foot trailer carrying 43,000 pounds of paper, was westbound and went off the north side of the road just west of Adams Cross Road. The operator was not injured and advised that he had swerved off the road to avoid an out-of-control eastbound vehicle, which he said did not stop. The tractor-trailer went into the ditch. A decision was made to leave the Freightliner in its spot overnight because it could not be safely removed, due to the poor weather and road conditions. It was leaning over on its passenger side at a 60-degree angle.

According to police, the only potential detours around the area of closure consist of dirt roads that may not be suitable for heavy motor vehicle traffic and these roads "are definitely not fit for commercial motor vehicle traffic."

Wrinn said there seemed to be more incidents than usual on Tuesday. He said people can easily reduce the number of accidents on slippery roads by increasing stopping time, driving slowly and having good windshield wipers and snow tires on their vehicle. He also said it is wise to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary to drive somewhere.

"Just use common sense," he said. "Even if you have four-wheel drive, it's not four-wheel stop."

Dover Police Chief Robert Edwards said Tuesday proved pretty mild for the town, probably because it is the middle of the week and there are fewer snow tourists on the road. He said Road Commissioner Robert Holland and his crew did a great job of keeping the streets safe.

"Bobby Holland is out there at all hours," he said. "The road crews up here are great."

Edwards said about 10 years ago there was a problem with roof collapses when three heavy snowstorms struck in March. He said people can avoid roof collapses by clearing their roofs or paying someone else to do it. He said people can use shovels or roof rakes, which have long reaches and can be purchased at local hardware stores.

Dave Samuhel, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, said Tuesday that the storm affected virtually all of New England, with the possible exception of Cape Cod. In addition, the storm reached areas of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Samuhel had unfortunate news for New Englanders, saying there will probably be snow on the ground when local baseball leagues start up.

"It's remarkable how chilly this pattern looks. And it's not just New England ... I seriously doubt we're done with the snowfall at this point," he told the Reformer. "It's been a pretty insane winter for you guys. Most of the region is already above its normal annual snowfall."

He said the cold weather will last for at least a few more weeks, though there are no imminent storms in the forecast.

Domenic Poli can be reached at, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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