Winter storm presents challenges, opportunities

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BRATTLEBORO — Road crews throughout the region were kept busy Sunday night and into Monday clearing the roads of what, in some places, was 18 inches of snowfall. And the job's not over yet. Weather forecasters are predicting another 6 to 12 inches of snow into Tuesday morning.

"It was a pretty challenging storm," said Steve Barrett, director of Brattleboro's Department of Public Works. "At one time the snow was falling at 1 to 3 inches of snow an hour and visibility was next to nothing."

Fortunately, he said, crews were out plowing the streets in the middle of the night, when most people were snuggled up and warm in bed.

"We can get more work done in less time with fewer vehicles on the road," said Barrett on Monday afternoon. "And today, traffic is very light with school being closed and lots of businesses telling their people to stay home."

In Chesterfield, Chris Lord, the highway superintendent, said the only unusual thing about the storm was having to close what's known as "The Spider Web," a section of dirt roads between Chesterfield and Hinsdale, earlier than in previous years.

"We normally block it off from Dec. 15 to April 15," said Lord. "But with the amount of snow we were getting we decided to close it early to prevent any issues for ourselves, the local police and Hinsdale."

On Monday afternoon, Lord spoke to the Reformer as his crew was sitting down to a home-cooked meal of chili and meatball grinders.

"After lunch we'll probably be out there scraping secondary roads until 10:30 or so and then we'll go home for four or five hours of sleep," he said.

Lord said he expected he and his crew of five will be back at it around 4 a.m., when the second front is done with the region, getting the roads ready so kids can go to school and people can go to work.

"It's been a nice, easy storm," he said. "Most of the weather events in the last couple of years have been snow and freezing rain, just a mess. This was nice, fluffy powder."

Lord said crews from the state of New Hampshire also did a good job on Route 9 and Route 63, the main thoroughfares in Chesterfield.

"They were on top of their game," he said.

Chesterfield Police Chief Duane Chickering said despite the amount of snow, it was a quiet night for his officers.

"We only had a couple of cars get stuck last night," he said Monday afternoon, though he knew there was more snow on the way.

"We are geared up and ready to go," said Chickering.

At the other end of Route 9, in Vermont, Wilmington Town Manager Scott Tucker said the town's road crew cleared roads until about 11:30 p.m. Sunday then returned to work at 4:30 a.m. Monday.

"I think we're in pretty good shape," he said at about noon on Monday. "I think we're keeping up reasonably well."

Tucker said one truck needed a repair involving one of the wheels but he anticipated it would be back on the road later Monday.

From the town office on Main Street, Tucker watched the snow fall and cars go by regularly as the road is part of Route 9.

"I think people are using caution, which is good," he said, noting that it can be icy underneath the snow. "So there is some sliding when turning corners and things like that."

Tucker said keeping sidewalks clear has been challenging so he hopes those will be under control by Tuesday. He advised people to slow down, use caution and watch for pedestrians.

In Brattleboro, Barrett said the snow has proven challenging for his sidewalk plow drivers.

"We've been breaking a lot of shear pins," he said, which is exactly what shear pins are for, to keep more expensive parts of the plows from breaking. But that slows everything down, having to replace the pins. "It's taking us a bit more time to get all the sidewalk snow."

One road truck experienced a breakdown, but that was quickly fixed, said Barrett.

"Overall, we're in good shape," he said. On Monday, crews were out salting roads and spreading sand on the town's gravel roads, getting ready for the anticipated snowfall into Tuesday morning.

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Barrett said he sent his crews home on Monday afternoon and expected to have them back on the road by midnight. Once the storm has finished, the crews will spend the next several days moving snow from downtown and the town's parking lots.

"Because of the large amount of snow, it will take multiple nights to pick it all up," he said.

Some parking lots might be closed for overnight parking, which will be signaled by alert lights, said Barrett. In that case, people can park overnight for free in the Transportation Center and in the Preston Lot on Flat Street.

"We need to get the parking lots all cleared," he said. "It is holiday season and parking is at a premium."

Tucker said the snowstorm bodes well for business in the Deerfield Valley.

"I think it's a great start to the season," he said.

Wilmington is one town over from West Dover, where the Mount Snow ski resort is based.

Tim Dolan, director of marketing at Mount Snow, described the snowfall as light and fluffy — "Just what we needed to start December off right." He reported the resort receiving about 15 inches Sunday night and about 4 inches by noon Monday.

He noticed that some guests decided to "play hooky" and extended their stay an extra day from the holiday weekend to ski the fresh snow.

"You only get so many and fewer opportunities when people have to travel," he said.

Members of ski patrol were out to make sure the conditions of trails were safe for skiers and boarders. Two terrain parks were closed to be rebuilt.

Dolan said another six trails were opened Monday, giving the resort a total of 27 trails spanning about 350 acres.

"We're only getting more snow and hopefully opening more as we go," he said. "We're ahead of the game with our great snowmaking system and had the most acreage open in the east coming into the storm. This is only helping us add to that acreage count and trail count and stay on top in the east here."

Andrew Kimiecik, marketing communications specialist at Stratton Mountain Resort, said the snow was "great."

"The morning was deep on our first powder day of the season," he said in an email. "The snow came in cold and light last night and stacked up at about an inch an hour for the start of the storm."

Kimiecik said Stratton had 14 inches of snow on the ground Monday afternoon and another 2 to 8 inches were expected to drop overnight. The resort started the day with 27 trails open and ski patrol opened four more later, bringing the total up to 31.

"This is my sixteenth day skiing this season, fourth at Stratton, and the early season conditions are unbelievable," Ken White of South Brunswick, N.J. said in the resort's Monday morning snow report.

In Rockingham, veteran Rockingham town heavy equipment operator Pete Higgins' plow truck landed on its side down an embankment off Williams Road, a short distance from Brockways Mills Road. Vermont State Police closed the Williams Road briefly Sunday night to allow for the truck to be pulled back onto the road and taken in for repairs.

Everett Hammond, Rockingham's public works director, said Higgins had worked for the town for about 25 years. He said he was able to roll down his window and crawl out of the truck.

He said that Higgins had sensed the truck hit a soft spot on the shoulder and was tipping over, so he shut off the engine. The truck tipped over at a 90-degree angle, and a small stream coming out of a culvert was running underneath it, Hammond said.

Hammond said the 2013 10-wheeler was one of five large trucks the town has for plowing snow, and with two smaller, two-ton trucks, two loaders and a grader.

He said the truck was currently being evaluated to see how much damage it sustained.

He said the accident occurred about 200 feet from Higgins' home, and he said Higgins was plowing at the time.

"Hopefully, they'll say it's okay," he said, otherwise, it will affect the town's plow routes.

Hammond said the town received eight to 10 inches of snow from Sunday afternoon until Monday morning.

The Brattleboro Reformer newsroom can be contacted at 802-254-2511, ext. 215, or news@reformer.com.


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