Even with storm over, wind, cold to remain ; More than 225 cars towed in West Haven
While Connecticut wasn’t affected by Thursday’s blizzard as severely as some neighboring states, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was vocal through the day in urging residents to be careful as the state weathered a wallop.
While there was no official statewide travel ban, Malloy said travel conditions were quite hazardous at times . Three minor injuries were reported due to traffic accidents, with police responding to 330 motorists throughout the day.
Some area school districts on Thursday decided to cancel school for Friday, including Milford, Ansonia and Seymour.
Having planned for a blizzard that would drop 12 inches of snow, New Haven reported around 2 p.m. that it was keeping up as best as possible with the 10-inch accumulation at that time with another 2 inches expected by 6 p.m.
Rick Fontana, director of emergency management, said the storm was a “triple whammy,” given the deep snow, high winds and cold temperatures, which were projected to plummet further on Friday.
He said they had 50 trucks from the Public Works Department and outside contractors clearing the posted snow routes. the arterial roads and downtown.
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said the effort was augmented by 17 vehicles from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees, which were helping with narrower residential streets as well as the sidewalks and curb cuts at the Green, other parks, and bus shelters.
“It’s a Herculean effort,” Fontana said. He said the greatest concentration of equipment being used downtown and on the main roads, but the residential areas were being plowed simultaneously.
A citywide parking ban was in place by 1 a.m. to make sure the plows could function effectively on the major roads and at intersections. In the first wave of towing, about 20 cars were removed from these areas early in the operation, Fontana said.
“Believe it or not, we don’t like to tow cars,” Fontana said, and they only do so when a vehicle is impeding the progress of the snow clearing operation as determined by public works and the police department.
Information on the storm is posted on the city’s website and the mayor said it appeared that the public was responsive.
Residents without driveways or garages, and who have to park on a residential street that is not a snow route, were asked to move cars to the even side of the road.
“Our observation is that residents are abiding by that request,” Harp said.
The Temple Street and Granite Square garages downtown were open for a one-time $3 charge, the city said.
The parking lots at city schools were open to the public for free until 6 a.m. on Friday. It is not certain if there will be school on Friday and if use of the lots by the public continues after that.
By 6 p.m., Fontana said two teams of workers will be going out to tag and tow vehicles in residential areas that are 25 feet from an intersection, fire hydrant or bus stop. Those vehicles parked on the wrong side of the street will also be subject to towing.
He said residents should have planned, long before the snowstorm, where to put their cars.
Residents are also required to clear their sidewalks 24 hours after the storm has ended, the mayor said.
She said if they are not able to do so because they are elderly or disabled, Harp said to send a message through SeeClickFix and there are volunteers who will help them.
A call-in by the alders to the Emergency Operations Center indicated the majority were happy with the city’s early efforts.
Alder Anna Festa, D-10, however said when she went door to door to notify residents of the parking rule, many of the Yale University students were not aware of them
She hoped that the university and Yale New Haven Hospital were warning students and employees of the towing procedure on snow days.
The mayor said anyone who has lost heat or has a burst water pipe should call 203-946-8221 for help from the Livable City Initiative or the Fire Department.
The city has added and upgraded public works vehicles in recent years to better deal with storms. Harp said when she first took office in 2014, seven of the trucks in the public works fleet had to be taken out of service for lack of repairs.
On a state level, motorists were urged to stay off the road unless absolutely necessary as the state Department of Transportation cleared highways as quickly as possible.
Total snowfall as of 5 p.m., as the storm began to taper off in Greater New Haven, ranged between 8 and 16 inches across the state.
Malloy advised anyone needing shelter to call 211, adding there are at least 103 warming centers open in 34 towns throughout the state.
“We’ve been in our cold weather protocol for a long period of time, and have extended those through Jan. 8. I think our community providers and agencies have done an exceptional job in getting folks indoors,” Malloy said.
The state had 634 plow trucks on state roads and an additional 250 contractors.
As of late Thursday afternoon, West Haven had towed more than 225 cars whose owners did not comply with the city’s even-side parking ban, but city plow drivers were doing their best to stay ahead of the heavy, wind-blown snow and icy conditions, officials said.
“I think our response has been good,” said Mayor Nancy Rossi. “Last night, we made the decision to close City Hall today. We just have the bare minimum of people essential to run the city.
“Everybody’s working together as a team to make sure we do as good a job as possible,” Rossi said.
“So what they’re doing is just to keep plowing and and keep the roads as clear as possible,” she said.
Police “have been ticketing and towing,” Rossi said.
Rossi’s executive assistant, former state Rep. Louis Esposito Jr., who is the acting public works director, said, “We have a full complement of trucks out there.”
“We’re doing our best to get ahead of it,” he said.
Emergency Response Coordinator Scott Schwartz said that as of midday, “Everything seems to be going very well.” But “with the amount of snow that’s been falling and the blowing, they’re having some trouble keeping up with it.”
The city did a reverse 911 call to residents to make them aware of the parking ban, Schwartz said.
The West Haven Police Department reminded residents in a Facebook post that parking is banned on the even-numbered side of the streets for 36 hours following the storm and “police will tag and tow vehicles violating the parking ban at the owner’s expense.”
Residents are urged to park in driveways or designated private lots, the post said.
Earlier Thursday, Hamden Public Works employee Mike Siciliano said
they hope to have the roads cleared by Friday morning.
No cars had been reported as being towed, Sicliano said, and the plow trucks hadn’t reported any issues.
Drivers were called in at 3 a.m. Thursday, with 15 trucks responsible for clearing 240 miles of road, Siciliano said.
“It takes time,” he said.
Mayor Curt Leng said “it’s an extremely challenging storm and conditions are dangerous. The extreme cold is making it difficutl to get roads to a points of not being slippery and even our melting agent has difficulty working at temperatures this low.”
He urged people to stay off the roads unless “absolutely necessary,” and for anyone in need of shelter to call 211 as “these are life and death conditions.”
In North Haven, police responded to a couple stranded drivers, but no serious incidents had been reported, Captain Kevin Glenn said.
“Most people stay inside during a storm,” he said.
Neither town had reported any power outages as of Thursday evening, according to United Illuminating.
Eversource and UI were reporting a combined 1,800 customers without power and more were expected throughout the day as the storm worsened. Malloy said the companies were responding where safety allows.
“A lot of this will depend on what the nature of the outage is. If it’s an aerial outage, it will be more difficult to respond to than if it’s a ground-level generator for instance. ... You just can’t put a person in a dangerous situation,” he said.
Express bus services was suspended ., with regular buses expected to continue service with detours in effect. It’s expected that Metro-North will be operating it’s normal schedule Friday in Connecticut but there will be changes affecting riders in New York, Malloy said.