Town avoids brunt of weekend blizzard

All photographs by John Ferrris Robben

Greenwich didn’t quite experience the “snowpocolypse” weather experts anticipated over the weekend but Winter Storm Nemo certainly left its mark, covering the town with more than 15 inches of snow by Saturday morning.

Dan Warzoha, the town’s director of emergency management, told the Post that Greenwich was fortunate enough to fare well in the storm, which turned out to be an ordinary occurrence given the time of year.

“It was a typical New England storm in February,” Mr. Warzoha said. Snow accumulated and winds were strong, but other parts of the state were hit much harder, he said. The coastal flooding the town experienced in the legendary blizzard of 1978, for example, never became an issue during Nemo, he added.

With plenty of resources and few problems caused by the storm, the town was able to provide “significant mutual aid” to surrounding towns such as Fairfield and Bridgeport, Mr. Warzoha said. The aid was unprecedented but necessary and Greenwich has moved a front-end loader and its operator to Fairfield for a few days to lend road crews there a helping hand, he said.

“Overall this was a well managed event,” Mr. Warzoha said of the storm. Thanks to the hard work performed by Greenwich Emergency Medical Services (GEMS), and highway and parks and recreation staff, the town did “very well,” he said. With no injuries or fatalities suffered as a result of the storm, Mr. Warzoha said the town can “put this one in the books” and begin to worry about the next storm, which may arrive as early as Saturday.

Greenwich Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. Kraig Gray echoed Mr. Warzoha’s comments, saying that, statistically, Winter Storm Nemo was not the devastating event it could have been. Between 8 a.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, there were 16 reported motor vehicle accidents without injuries and seven with minor injuries, three of which took place on Interstate 95. That’s a total of 23 accidents during the height of the storm, which is on par with the number of accidents that took place during the same time period in years past, Lt. Gray said. In 2012, there were 20 motor vehicle accidents between Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, and 24 in 2011, indicating that the storm had little impact on the number of collisions taking place in town for this time of year. Police did provide more assistance on the highway during Nemo compared to past storms, but since town police do not investigate highway accidents, they were on scene to assist as first responders, Lt. Gray added.

As far as road clean-up was concerned, town Highway Superintendent Joe Roberto told the Post that highway conditions around town presented no major issues for road crews. Having been fortunate enough to avoid the massive amounts of snow that accumulated in towns north of Greenwich, Mr. Roberto said road workers were able to maintain a decent traffic flow, keep streets open and provide reasonable clean-up after the storm.

As of Tuesday, the town had removed at least 4,000 cubic yards of snow from area roadways, which is “typical of a large snow storm,” Mr. Roberto said. A few things that gave pause to the clean-up process included residents who parked on the street and snow plows that cleared driveways and pushed snow back into the road. Based on town ordinance, those who plow driveways are not allowed to clear snow this way but continue to do so. “It’s a common struggle,” Mr. Roberto said.

In order to allow the highway department to efficiently perform its duties, residents should be mindful of weather warnings and timing when a storm is predicted, Mr. Roberto said. People often ignore weather alerts and stay at work too late or travel when they should be off the roads, which often results in their vehicles becoming trapped in the street, thereby “hampering the operation,” he said. If a storm is on its way, Mr. Roberto said, residents should conduct as much business as they can in advance and avoid hitting the roads.

Nevertheless, Mr. Roberto said he had no major problems as a result of Winter Storm Nemo. “All in all I think we came out of this ahead of the game,” he said.

First Selectman Peter Tesei also vouched for road crews, which consisted of the town’s highway and parks and recreation workers along with outside contractors.

“They did an exceptional job keeping roads open,” Mr. Tesei said. “And I’ve heard, by and large, positively from most areas” in town.

The focus during a big storm is accessibility and ensuring that plows and emergency vehicles can get to various locations, Mr. Tesei said, which is exactly what was done over the weekend.

Additionally, the town’s communications regarding the storm were informative and up to date, which is important, Mr. Tesei said. The only warnings that residents could have been more cooperative in heeding were parking bans that are put in place to allow efficient plowing and road accessibility. Compliance with parking restrictions is enforced and police did so to the best of their ability during the storm, Mr. Tesei said, but it took them away from other police work and could have been avoided if the community had more closely heeded the warning. Overall, Mr. Tesei added, the town did well during the storm and it was a relief that no one suffered major injuries.

The town also fared well with power issues. Unlike past extreme weather events such as the Halloween snow storm of 2011 and the more recent Superstorm Sandy, the town did not suffer massive power outages. In fact, no outages were reported at all, although it is still unclear why.

Connecticut Light & Power media spokesperson Mitch Gross said the company will not understand why power outages were avoided until a post storm analysis report has been completed. And while the company did some preventative work to prepare for the storm, such as trimming loose branches around town, Mr. Gross said it’s possible that the track of the storm could have had a lot to do with the town’s good fortune this time around.


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