EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 19, 2014

February brings snow, snow and more snow

By Paul Tennant, Mike LaBella and Yadira Betances
Staff writers

---- — Right on the tail of last weekend’s storm, the Merrimack Valley was bombarded by another 71/2 inches of snow yesterday.

So much fell in North Andover that the Joseph Hermann N. Hermann Youth Center, a popular place for young people who are enjoying the week off from school, shut down at 3 p.m. The snow fell so quickly that the new skating rink adjacent to the center was knocked out of action.

Thanks to the February break, schools dodged yet another snow day yesterday. Haverhill Superintendent James Scully said the beginning of yesterday’s storm was difficult to pinpoint.

With many roads still slippery from last Thursday’s storm, it’s likely he would have canceled again yesterday had school been in session, he said. As of now, the last day of school in Haverhill is scheduled for June 18.

“I think we would have called it off yesterday, although the forecasts changed overnight,” Scully said.

David Van Dam, Mayor James Fiorentini’s chief of staff, said the city — like many others in the Merrimack Valley — has already exhausted the roughly $423,000 it set aside in its annual snow and ice account, one of the few places where communities are allowed by state law to run a deficit.

The money is made up in the following fiscal year, which begins July 1. Van Dam said that during the last 10 years, the city has spent an average of about $1.1 million each year on plowing, sanding and salting.

Haverhill police said slippery roads contributed to a rash of both accidents and vehicles sliding off the road. By 11 a.m., police had responded to seven reports and by 2:45 p.m. the number was up to a dozen, including a few reports of disabled vehicles.

North Andover police reported several incidents of minor accidents and cars sliding off the road, according to Lt. Charles Gray. Lawrence interim police Chief James Fitzpatrick said his city experienced a few “slipping and sliding” accidents but there were no serious injuries.

Along with the deficits in snow and ice accounts, the tough winter of 2014 has also caused a shortage of rock salt and ice melt.

“We’re currently out of any type of ice melt,” said Tom Daugirda, manager at Aubuchon Hardware in Haverhill. “Friday alone we had eight pallets and they were gone in 36 hours.”

This is the second or third time he has ran out of ice melt and rock salt.

Brian Favor of Main Street Hardware in North Andover said he ran out of rock salt yesterday.

“It’s been a very strong winter,” he said. “People are constantly calling or coming in. They understand that it’s not available because they have checked several places.”

Gordon Hultstrom, owner of Bruckmann’s in Lawrence for the past 40 years, only had 10 bags of rock salt left yesterday. He suspected they’d be gone by the end of the day.

“Because of the weather it never stops,” Hultstrom said. “A lot of people can’t find it anywhere and now it is getting to the point where we’re out of it too.”

Hultstrom had 20 pallets, each with 50 bags of rock salt and ice melt, but supplies dwindled. He began replacing them two weeks ago with shipments from New Hampshire and Maine.

“We would have a lot here, but that’s up in the air at this point,” he said. He suggests calcium chloride flakes, which are effective at 25 below, don’t leave a residue and don’t ruin concrete.

Tom Fortin, owner of Hampton Sand and Gravel in Hampton, N.H., distributes salt to landscapers that have sanders on their trucks.

“The phone never stops ringing when there’s a storm coming,” Fortin said. “It’s like a gold rush.”

Denise Lauer, of the communications department at Morton Salt in Chicago, said the severe winter weather in most parts of the country has caused the strong demand for road salt. From October 2013 through January, the company had shipped more than triple the amount of road salt to U.S. markets that was sent during last year’s mild winter.

“Even compared to a ‘normal’ winter, we’ve shipped significantly more road salt this season to the markets we serve due to the severe weather,” Lauer said.