Blizzard dumps 20 inches of snow on town

Henry Polio shovels snow from his deck following the end of the huge snowstorm, now called the Blizzard of 2013, that hit the area Friday into Saturday.

Redding got blasted with some 20 inches of snow from Nemo, the blizzard of 2013, forcing people to hunker down Friday and to stay put.

While the town got a lot of snow, it was far less than towns in southeastern Connecticut, where the storm hit the hardest, dropping as much as 38 inches of snow.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called the storm “record-breaking.” He initiated a travel ban on limited-access highways on Friday morning, but eventually extended it to all roads on Saturday, finally lifting the ban Saturday at 4 p.m. Metro-North suspended train service on Saturday; the Danbury line was not back in service until Monday. Mr. Malloy requested and got a federal declaration of emergency to help with the costs associated with cleaning up after the storm.

There were no reported power outages in the town.

Police Chief Douglas Fuchs said on Friday that he had doubled the department’s staffing levels and the department was prepared to respond to emergencies with its 4×4 all-wheel-drive cruisers and Humvee.

Around midday on Friday, Feb. 8, after the snow started, Stephen Schnell, communications supervisor for the Police Department, made well-being checks of 10 residents who are on the Connecticut Light & Power list for medical concern in case of a power outage.

During the first eight hours of the storm, Chief Fuchs said, police used their all-wheel-drive police cruisers and Ford Expedition SUVs. When the snow started to pick up and ground clearance was minimized, police used their Expeditions and borrowed town SUVs and its Humvee.

“It worked very well,” said Chief Fuchs. “The Humvee had no issue going through anything.”

There were four car accidents reported on Feb. 8. One accident resulted in minor injuries.

All three fire chiefs said it was mostly quiet during the storm.

“We were very fortunate not to have any major incidents during the storm. And with the power staying on, residents were content to stay home for the most part,” said fire Chief Ron van Oostendorp of Redding Fire and EMS Co. #1 (The Ridge).

The chief said there was a motor vehicle crash into a utility pole on Route 58 on Friday as the snow started. The driver was transported to Danbury Hospital, he said

Around 1 a.m. Saturday, Chief van Oostendorp said, he got a call from the Police Department’s dispatch center about the availability of a four-wheel drive fire engine to give mutual aid to Hartford, “but I declined because I was concerned that we may need that apparatus here in town. … It would also be a very long way to send our equipment.”

Fire Chief Glenn Johnson of the West Redding Volunteer Fire Department said he had EMS staff on duty until midday on Saturday in case volunteers could not get in to respond to calls. He also had a driver for a fire truck on duty.

Like the other chiefs, Chief Johnson said it was very quiet. “People must have heeded the warning [to stay home],” he said.

Gary Feld, EMS captain for the West Redding Volunteer Fire Department, said there was one emergency medical transport on Saturday night. “The highway crew plowed the road ahead of us,” he said.

Chief Johnson said he wanted to thank George Rudinas of the Highway Department, who led the ambulance on Route 53 to Bethel. From there the ambulance was able to make its way to Danbury Hospital.

After a couple of accidents at the beginning of the storm, people stayed off the roads, he said.

Fire Chief Mike Heibeck of the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department said there was only one fire call — for a wire on a branch on Mountain Road — and an ambulance call that was a refusal. He said he had four people on duty during the storm “because we were afraid people couldn’t get in [to answer calls], but it “was very quiet compared to other storms we have had.”

“I’m delighted that we did not lose power in this storm. It is the defining element that changes our ability to cope,” said First Selectman Natalie Ketcham on Monday.

Even though a great deal of snow was deposited in a short period of time, she said, “the Highway Department did its usual stellar job clearing the roads, and I know residents and I appreciated it,” she said.

The town’s highway crew was at work all day and all night Friday, plowing continually to keep the roads passable. Snow drifting was a problem, said Jeff Hanson, Highway Department superintendent, noting that during the storm, a road would no sooner be plowed than snow would be drifting across it.

At one point, a plow driver who could not see because of the blizzard conditions drove his truck into a ditch. A wrecker was called in and several hours later the driver, who was not hurt, and his truck were back on the road.

While there were reports in the state of highway trucks getting stuck, this was the only incidence in Redding, where, unlike some other municipalities, all of the town’s roads were cleared and passable late Sunday.

The crew worked Saturday and was then sent home at dinnertime, returning on Sunday. They worked their regular workday on Monday.

On Monday, when some municipalities were still clearing roads and canceling schools, Easton, Redding and Region 9 (Joel Barlow High School) schools were on only a two-hour delay. And the town, at the request of the governor and the state’s Emergency Operations Center, sent help to Bridgeport for its cleanup effort in the form of two 10-wheel dump trucks with plows and two operators.

Even though Mr. Hanson and his crew got town roads open, he did not fare as well in his hometown of Naugatuck, where the road to his house was not plowed, even as of Monday. Mr. Hanson crashed on his brother’s couch at his  home in Beacon Falls on Saturday night and spent the next nights at his mother’s house in a different part of Naugatuck.

On Monday morning, a small highway crew was out with a payloader and dump truck to open up roads that were still narrow because of the snow. A crew was also cleaning up Main Street and Old Mill Road in Georgetown.

Two department mechanics were fixing the equipment used during the storm, said Mr. Hanson.

Many here may remember the blizzard of 1978. Like the blizzard of 2013, the blizzard of 1978 was a nor’easter that also hit in February, and forced the closure of roads for a time. This most recent blizzard is the second worst in terms of snowfall to hit the United States, according to WTNH’s WXedge.com. The record goes to the Great Blizzard of 1888, when 40 to 50 inches of snow fell in parts of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, with sustained winds of 45 mph.

 

Pilot reporter Kaitlin Bradshaw provided the police information for this story.

 

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