Town gears up for winter's first onslaught

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BRATTLEBORO — With snow drifting into the area just after 3 p.m., Brattleboro's highway crew was gearing up for long-duration storm that is expected to drop anywhere between 12 and 24 inches of snow when all is said and done on Tuesday morning.

"All our equipment is ready to go," said Steve Barrett, director of Brattleboro's Department of Public Works.

Barrett said his crew of 13 will keep the trucks rolling until the last of the snow has fallen.

"We'll have to pace ourselves," he said. Plow drivers can stay on the road for up to 24 hours, but Barrett said he didn't expect anyone to be driving 24 hours straight. "We want to rotate our people in and out. If an employee needs a break, we'll give it."

Employees from the town's utilities department will also be on hand to drive to give breaks to the Public Works' drivers, said Barrett.

"We're talking probably a good 36 to potentially 42-hour storm, something like that," said Joe Villani, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. "Once you get to like late Sunday morning onward, that's when things are going to considerably deteriorate in terms of travel conditions" with snow-covered roads and poor visibility, Villani said.

A winter storm warning was issued Saturday by the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., effective from 11 a.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Tuesday, increasing the predicted snow accumulation and cautioning that winds could gust as high as 35 m.p.h.

The impact includes snow-covered roads, reduced visibility and hazardous driving conditions, with 3 to 7 inches on the ground by Sunday evening. By early Tuesday, one to two feet of snow may blanket the region, with lower amounts in eastern New York, central and eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut.

"Travel could be very difficult to impossible," the weather service cautioned, with major hazards Sunday night, as well as during the Monday morning and evening commutes. People who can stay home Monday are urged to stay off the roads.

The slow-moving coastal storm tracking up the mid-Atlantic coast and off Cape Cod is not expected to move out until Tuesday morning.

Villani advised those who must travel during the storm to be prepared — make sure car defrosters work, and have plenty of windshield washer fluid.

A storm like this is "definitely within the realm of normal" for the area this time of year, Villani said.

"Really, it's December to March is the most likely time frame for those," he said. "So we're kind of right on schedule here."

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Once residents get through the storm, weather for the rest of next week looks uneventful, Villani said.

There are a couple of weak disturbances — like weak cold fronts — that are moving fast, but they don't really have the chance to develop into significant storms, he said.

"Nothing certainly even remotely close to what we're going to see here coming up Sunday into Monday," he said. "We just got to get through the next few days."

Temperatures also look relatively normal for the area next week, around the mid-30s with a possible slight warmup at the end of the week, potentially into the upper 30s, Villani said.

"It's pretty close to average, maybe slightly below normal, but nothing considerable," he said.

Barrett said Brattleboro crews will start working on Putney Road, Canal Street, High Street and Western Avenue when between 3 and 4 inches has accumulated on the roadways.

"Once we have 7 to 8 inches on the ground we'll call in more personnel who are assigned routes in the neighborhoods," he said. While snow keeps falling, drivers will stay in their assigned routes unless they need a break, said Barrett.

He sympathized with people who clear their driveways only to have a passing plow shove snow back.

"We do hear that complaint quite often," said Barrett. "But the bottom line is we need to keep the roads clear. And please don't throw the snow out into the road. That can cause an accident."

Unlike years past, the Department of Public Works has two sidewalk tractors, which means once the storm has let up, it should only take about eight hours to clear the town's 14 miles of sidewalks. However, this doesn't apply to sidewalks in front of privately owned property on Main Street, Elliot Street to its intersection with School Street, Harris Place, Flat Street, Elm Street, High Street to its intersection with Retting Place, Canal Street to its southerly intersection with Clark Street, and Bridge Street. Property owners have 48 hours to clear those sidewalks or face fines.

"We'll try to keep our sidewalks open during the storm, but it's kind of hard with drivers plowing the snow right back on to the sidewalk," said Barrett. "It's important that motorists be cautious as pedestrians might walking along the side of the road."

Barrett said he'd let his 13 drivers rest through Tuesday night and on Wednesday they'll be out moving snow from downtown.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or


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