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Snow And Ice Storms Cause Problems In Town

January 20, 2011 by Josh Morgan

Much of December 2010 was devoid of any kind of precipitation, causing many to question when winter would actually swing into full gear.
The last few weeks have certainly answered that question.
Beginning on Dec. 26, 2010, with a blizzard that blanketed Connecticut with snow and high winds, the winter weather has come fast and furious, and doesn't show any signs of letting up.
Last week's storm has taken its place alongside some of the largest ever to hit Connecticut.
Nearly two feet of snow fell across Cheshire, causing many residents to stay home for the duration of the winter storm.
From Tuesday night into Wednesday morning last week, snow fell at more than two inches an hour, making travel very difficult, if not impossible, in some parts of the state. Cheshire Police Lt. James Fasano explained that, over a 24-hour period on Jan. 11 and Jan. 12, there were just three accidents and five disabled vehicles to which the department responded.
"Generally speaking, people listened and stayed off the roads," Fasano said. "There were a lot less cars on the road. It seemed like people heard the reports and stayed home."
Schools in the area were closed and many businesses decided to open late on Wednesday. Even though the storm hit hardest during the morning commute, there weren't many motorists on the roads. Cheshire Town Hall opened late as well last week. Fasano explained that the department was quiet that day, which was a good thing.
"It really wasn't that bad," he said.
State police responded to 69 vehicle crashes, with three resulting in injury. There was also 1,776 calls for service on the roads, the state police said, for things such as cars caught in snow banks, breakdowns, and running out of gas.
Director of Public Works Joe Michelangelo said that the crews clearing the town roads arrived around 10 p.m. on Jan. 11 and worked almost straight through 10 p.m. the next night. He said the drivers took two one-hour breaks over that 24 hour time period and every truck available, from large dump trucks to smaller pickups, were on the road.
"Everyone that works in the garage was out and working," Michelangelo said. "We'd like to have given them more breaks, but it was coming down so fast they had to be out there the whole time to try and keep up with it."
That lack of motorists on the road "made things easier in a sense," Michelangelo said. While it was a major storm, the plows pretty much had free rein and were able to clear the streets without much incident.
"It was good that no one was really out there. We expected that during the night, but even during the day no one was out," Michelangelo said. "When everyone is on the road, it becomes a standstill quagmire."
While there wasn't as much snow earlier this week, the commute was still treacherous as sleet and freezing rain made the roads a mess on Tuesday. Only an inch or two of snow fell, but it was quickly topped with ice, which weighed heavily on the tree limbs and power lines.
At around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, a telephone pole snapped in half near Highland Avenue and police had to close down a section of Route 10. Traffic was detoured down Hinman and Jarvis Streets, and stop signs were placed in the road since power was knocked out. The state Department of Transportation was out yesterday morning replacing the traffic lights and traffic was snarled again, as motorists were getting used to the four-way traffic stop signs.
Later in the evening on Tuesday, at approximately 5 p.m. the south end of Cheshire became a ghost town when power was knocked out. From the Hamden town line up towards Jinny Hill Road, the entire area was blanketed in darkness after fallen tree limbs shorted out a transformer. As a result, the Town opened the Cheshire Senior Center, which doubles as the emergency shelter.
"The Senior Center was open but, to my knowledge, no one used it. It was available in case residents' homes got too cold," Fasano explained. "The power was back on after several hours."
With the snow came days off from school and sledding down the big hill at Mixville Recreation Area, but over the last few weeks two children have been injured in the park. On Dec. 29, a seven-year-old girl, whose name was not released by police, had to be taken away in an ambulance after suffering a neck and head injury. More recently, on Jan. 17, a nine-year-old girl, whose name was also withheld, incurred a leg injury and a possible broken bone. Fasano urged families and children on the hill to take it easy and take precautions.
"Kids need to know their abilities. Maybe start halfway down the hill so they won't go as fast, and don't build jumps," Fasano said. "Like skiers, maybe sledders should also wear a helmet. Parents should check it out before letting their children go sledding."
Fasano said it was important to remind residents that sidewalks have to be cleared 24 hours after a storm stops. Also, any fire hydrants on the property need to be dug out in case the fire department requires access. It is also against the law to throw snow back into the street, so those with snow blowers need to be careful, Fasano said. With so much snow, site lines at intersections and the end of driveways are diminished, but Fasano stated Town crews were working on it. Residents are also advised to "be careful" and "reduce speed" as other drivers are inching out into the roads to combat the large snow mounds, Fasano said. Also, with more snow projected in the forecast, motorists need to clear their cars off before driving, as chunks of ice and snow could fly off and hit another vehicle, he explained.

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