EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 6, 2014

Few accidents in region, plowing goes smoothly


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Here’s how each community weathered the storm:

ANDOVER

The snow caused little trouble in town, thanks to a response by 157 vehicles working to clear the roads.

“It’s a lot,” Chris Cronin, director of municipal services, said. “But to keep (the town) at the level of service we have, it takes a lot of vehicles.”

Even during the height of the storm when snow was falling at a rate of an inch an hour, Cronin said things were going fine.

“The snow is coming down at a pretty good clip, and it has been a challenge,” Cronin said. “But we aren’t over-challenged.”

Temperatures also made response favorable and kept problems to a minimum, he said.

“We’re in the high 20s. There’s no wind, so that’s terrific,” he said. “It’s just cold enough where it’s much lighter. We’ve been very lucky with this storm.”

By 1 p.m., about 81/2 inches of snow was recorded in Andover, with another 2 to 4 inches expected before the storm tapered off, Cronin said. As the storm began to dissipate, the clean-up process began to take the roads from being passable to being clear, he added.

Downtown, life in Andover was quiet. Memorial Hall Library, Town Offices and schools were all closed for the day , and trash and recycling pickup were postponed a day.

A winter parking ban was expected to remain in place until this morning.

The town hadn’t exhausted its roughly $1.2 million snow and ice removal budget prior to the storm’s arrival yesterday. But Cronin said that wasn’t expected to last, especially with another storm, albeit more minor, forecasted for Sunday.

“I expect, by the end of the storm, we’ll be over-budget,” he said. “We’ll handle that (next) storm as we handled this storm. Public safety comes first.”

HAVERHILL

Mayor James Fiorentini said despite the snow, the city expected to reopen schools today.

But the final decision was not to be made until 2 a.m. today, after press time, when Superintendent James Scully was done touring school properties — though Scully was 85 percent sure schools would be open today.

“If we are not going to have school, we will issue a notice,” Scully said. “I’ll also send Tweets to almost 400 students at Haverhill High School who follow me.”

Fiorentini said the goal was to have every street plowed and all of the sanding and salting done by this morning, and have all school parking lots cleared of snow in anticipation of school being in session today.

“We’ll do sidewalks after we do streets, and we’ll do as many sidewalks as we can around schools, but we can’t get them all done by the morning,” the mayor said yesterday.

“If you live on a walking route, please do what you can do help clear sidewalks,” he said, seeking the public’s help.

Fiorentini also said trash pickup outside homes would not be postponed, but might be somewhat delayed today.

Fiorentini said it will take several days to complete sidewalk plowing and to remove snow in major commercial areas. He asked that residents who clear their own sidewalks of snow do not plow or shovel it onto streets.

LAWRENCE

Some 75 plow trucks hit the streets in force yesterday, shutting down school and public offices for the day.

Lawrence City Hall, along with city schools and Lawrence District and Superior courts were closed for the day as the first February 2014 storm bore down on the region.

“The weather people hit this one on the button. It’s about time,” said John Isensee, acting Lawrence Director of Public Works.

In all, 12 city plow trucks supplemented the 63 private contractors hired by the city. Yesterday’s mission was to clear all roads and streets in the congested city. Today, snow left behind in sidewalks and alleys will get the heave ho, Isensee said.

Mayor Daniel Rivera did not close City Hall until 8 a.m., and by then some employees had already arrived for work. Rivera, the city’s new mayor, said he probably should have made the closing call earlier, but he was thinking some people who ended up having the day off might come to the hall to pay a tax bill or pull a permit.

City Hall employee Lillian Michaud was one who did arrive at work yesterday, only to get turned around and sent home.

“A trip to Florida is looking good,” Michaud posted soon after on Facebook.

By late morning, Rivera had taken to the streets himself and was driving around checking on plowing conditions. Off the bat, he didn’t like what he saw on Park and Arlington streets, in North Lawrence, which didn’t appear to have been scraped yet.

Rivera said he was following contractors “making sure the plows were down” and that they were working in the city “in a systematic way.”

“This is quality control,” explained Rivera, adding “a curve ball to make sure they know someone is watching.”

As storm predictions intensified, Rivera said he held a “strategy session” at 4 p.m. Tuesday with Isensee and DPW foreman to prepare for the storm.

Rivera also said in this storm and future storms, the city’s winter parking ban will be strictly enforced and vehicles impeding plowing operations would be towed.

Yesterday’s storm fell on an odd numbered day, Feb. 5, so cars should be parked on the odd numbered sides of city streets. On even numbered days, the cars must be moved at midnight to the even numbered side of the street, both Rivera and Isensee stressed.

“We will have a more aggressive parking ban,” Rivera said. “We will ticket and tow people when safety is an issue.”

Sgt. Maurice Aguiler, Lawrence police day shift commander yesterday, said with schools closed and many people home from work, it appeared many residents just hunkered down and spent the day off the roads.

METHUEN

The town seemed to shut down yesterday because of the snow.

Methuen public schools closed for the day as well as City Hall.

Police urged residents to stay off the roads if at all possible, and according to Lt. Mike Wnek most seemed to adhered to their advice.

“Traffic has been pretty light,” Wnek said.

During the morning commute there was only one motor vehicle accident on Pleasant Valley Street at 7:30 a.m. Wnek said the accident was minor involving only one car with no injuries.

“I think because the media reported it was going to be a bad storm, that’s why people have been staying off the roads,” Wnek said. “It’s when it is a light coating that people go out and there are a bunch of accidents.”

Wnek said yesterday’s goal was to clear all Methuen streets and today’s will be shoveling sidewalks.

While some dread the snow, students are known to pray for snow days.

Methuen High School senior Tami Nguyen said she used the day off to relax.

“So far I’ve had a nice breakfast with my family and I plan to have a huge movie marathon,” She said about her plans for the day.

Resident Melissa Bell said the storm itself wasn’t bad, the conditions of the roads were poor.

“The side streets are a mess,” she said.

However, she said she was confident the city of Methuen would clean up the mess efficiently.

“I have all the confidence in the world. They do a great job every snow storm but it would be helpful if the people of Methuen didn’t park on the street to make it easier on them,” she said.

The city said its parking ban would continue through today.

Methuen police also urged residents not to toss snow into the roads when shoveling their driveways.

NORTH ANDOVER

Town residents and employees handled yesterday’s storm well, officials said, as plows worked streets mostly clear of traffic.

With schools canceled and residents staying off the roads, public works plows were able to clear the roads and police reported no accidents during a sometimes heavy winter storm that dropped an inch of snow an hour, meteorologists said.

“It’s an OK storm. We’ve had worse ones,” said public works Director Bruce Thibodeau. “Everyone is off the streets, which is one big thing. The biggest thing is getting the trash trucks out and we did that.”

Thibodeau said the key to staying on top of the storm is to get the trucks and plows out early and urge people to stay in. “We were a little bit behind this morning by maybe a half hour,” he said. “But everybody knows their routes and it looks like all of a sudden you’re caught up. We have a lot of experienced guys.”

Mark Cottone, a longtime DPW employee and plower, said the plows have designated routes, and he has been driving his for years. The drivers kept on the same route year in and year out can learn the quirks and tricks of each road, like where the manhole covers stick up and how to plow close to the curb when you can’t see it, he said.

Hills and some of the narrow, dead-end streets present the biggest challenge in town, Thibodeau said.

“The hills are the biggest thing,” he said. “We hit the main roads and the hills. They’re a challenge, but once you open them up they’re fine. The funky narrow streets and dead ends are a challenge. But once you get them clear, it’s fine.”

DPW uses smaller equipment to clear sidewalks, a job made easier yesterday with school canceled.

Police reported no major crashes or incidents during the storm. “We’ve barely had any accidents or anything,” said Sgt. Steve Diminico. “People were staying off the roads and the DPW is doing a good job. Midnight was quiet, the day was quiet and we’re doing pretty well.”

The National Weather Service did not list a total for North Andover, but at 6 p.m. yesterday, it reported 11 inches in Andover and 9 inches in Boxford.

Staff reporters Dustin Luca, Mike LaBella, Jill Harmacinski, Sara Brown and Doug Moser contributed to this report.