Winter storm: First blast of the season brings mix of snow and ice


Photo Gallery | First storm of the season

BRATTLEBORO — After hours of battling the beast of a storm, public employees in service vehicles defeated Goliath.

At 2 a.m. on Tuesday, all highway crews in Brattleboro were dispatched out to the roads where they fought the heavy mixture of snow and ice. According to the director of the Brattleboro Department of Public Works, Steve Barrett, the team found it challenging to keep up with the heavy precipitation.

"Thankfully people had enough advisory so they stayed off the roads," said Barrett, who mentioned that he did not observe an extreme amount of roadway accidents as of 12:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Barrett said the department first applied salt, but the warm roadways caused the snow to melt briefly and then freeze again soon after. Through trial and error, the roads were eventually scraped with graders and then salted, which was the key to success in making the roads safe and drivable in the Brattleboro area. According to Barrett, most of the roads in Windham County began opening back up early Tuesday afternoon.

"The storm caught us by surprise, we had to scramble around for a little while," said Rockingham Highway Superintendent, Michael Hindes. "I set my alarm for 2 a.m. so we could set out by 3 a.m., but then PD (Bellows Falls Police Department) called me at midnight."

Rockingham and Bellows Falls were not only caught off guard, but they also experienced some setbacks when the water pump gave out for one of their main vehicles and the clutch stopped working for another. Despite the setbacks, Hindes said they were able to stay in control of the storm with their remaining nine vehicles, which included graders, dump trucks and sidewalk plows.

"We were pretty well prepared and used a lot of water, sand and salt. We probably got about two inches of sleet," said Hindes. Despite the heavy accumulation for the first storm of the season, Hindes believes there was nothing unusual about this storm and that there will be many more like it this winter.

The Hermitage Club got a hand from the snow and cold temperatures on Tuesday. After unseasonably warm weather, the company had to reschedule the opening of its private ski resort at Haystack Mountain.

"We are opening tomorrow," said Meredith Morin, director of communications at the Hermitage Club, on Tuesday.

Around noon on Tuesday, Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure reported that 81 customers in Bennington experienced power outages during the storm while Barre had 72 customers without power. Early morning outages were also reported in Sunderland and Killington

Most outages were caused by vehicles, trees and branches hitting power lines or poles, according to the company.

The Snow & Ice Management Association, a North American non-profit organization representing snow and ice professionals, offered tips to stay safe during this weekend winter weather event. The first suggestion is to wear proper shoes to navigate through snow and ice. The "proper" type of shoe should have heavy treads and a flat bottom. Second, SIMA says citizens should always be prepared and make sure to include an ice scraper and brush inside of the car, but not inside of the trunk because sometimes snow may make it difficult to open the trunk. The group also advise having a full tank of gas and encourages people to check their tire pressure, battery and oil. And while some might find it obvious that a pair of stilettos or gym shorts are not exactly weather appropriate, SIMA suggests keeping the proper type of clothing at hand — boots, gloves, hats, scarves and additional clothing. Preparation also involves carrying a fully charged cell phone, and keeping a safe winter car kit that may contain items such as kitty litter, rock salt, a shovel, a blanket, flares or water that will help a vehicle become unstuck.

Third, while life does not stop and many people still need to travel to work, driving too quickly or in a reckless manner may result in a nasty car accident. SIMA says drivers need to slow down and remember that the possibility of sliding increases when it starts to snow or in freezing conditions. Last, SIMA says people should check the news when a storm is on its way. Local news is where people can hear about road conditions and closings and will allow drivers to plan an alternative route or stay home if the roads are hazardous.

Contributions made by Chris Mays.

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 275


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