EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 18, 2013

Snow grinds traffic to a halt -- except for ATV joy riders

By Mark E. Vogler

---- — LAWRENCE — A Lawrence police officer out on patrol at about 9 o’clock last night described the road conditions as “too terrible to be driving” — except for the ATVs, whose drivers were brazen as they made numerous illegal recreational rides on the city’s snow-covered major roads.

“They’ve been wreaking havoc all night and nobody can catch them,” the officer said.

Shortly before 10 p.m., another officer reported three ATVs driving over the Falls Bridge on Broadway, one of them with a snow plow attached to it. Police were unable to catch up with them to make the arrests.

Late last night, Lawrence police finally caught one of the ATV riders after he lost control and drove into a snow bank on Hancock Street.

Lawrence police overheard on the police radio said they planned to charge the ATV rider with driving without a license and driving to endanger among several criminal charges.

It is a rarity when ATV riders get caught driving on public roadways because their vehicles can usually outrun the police, except when they crash into snowbanks as was the case last night.

At press time, The Eagle-Tribune learned that police discovered five other ATV vehicles at 113 Hancock St., near the arrest scene. Police believe all of the vehicles they spotted during the evening came from this address.

Most legal traffic had it tough, though, trying to make their way home last night, especially during the evening rush hour. Yesterday’s storm, which began at around noon and continued late into the evening, dropped six to eight inches of snow across the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire.

Massachusetts State Secretary William Galvin, who is serving as acting governor while Gov. Deval Patrick is on a trade mission in Asia, sent all non-essential state workers home early yesterday as the snowstorm began gaining intensity. Galvin urged private employers in the greater Boston area to let their employees leave early too.

Driving home still turned out to be a nightmare for drivers caught in the rush hour traffic.

In New Hampshire, officials lowered the speed limit to 45 mph on most state highways. But traffic moved much, much slower than that. Local government officials and community agencies decided to postpone School Board meetings and all sporting events. The Nesmith Library in Windham closed at 4:30 p.m.

“Very happy to report no reported accidents during tonights snowstorm as of 10 p.m. in Plaistow. Excellent job road crews!!!,” Plaistow Police tweeted in a late night message.

Police departments throughout southern New Hampshire and the Merrimack Valley report just a handful of accidents, though many more spin-outs where cars slid off the road into snowbanks. North Andover police reported driving conditions slick and treacherous on Route 125 and Route 114, where several cars needed to be towed out of the snow.

Methuen responded to eight accidents between noon, when the snow began to fall, and 7:30 p.m., according to Methuen Police Lt. Michael Wnek. But nobody suffered serious injuries in any of the crashes, he said.

“We also had two calls for response for disabled vehicles, which stuck as a result of the snow,” Wnek said.

“The roads were bad, but the DPW were out in full force. And obviously the Police Department urged residents against any unnecessary travel so the streets so the DPW crews could clear the streets,” he said.

A snowplow hit a car in Lawrence, according to police. But the crash was considered minor and nobody was injured, police said.

Haverhill police reported a steady stream of calls during the rush hour, but no serious accidents.

It was not clear late last night whether school officials would cancel classes today.

The National Weather Service forecast last night’s snow to end before midnight.

The forecast for today called for cloudy weather in the morning, then gradually becoming sunny, with a high temperature near 32, with west winds 9 to 13 mph.

Tonight, the temperature is expected to drop to a low around 22, with southwesterly winds of 6 to 8 mph.

At the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Andover, the airport’s manager Michael Miller reported that his three-man plow crew had worked a noon to midnight shift, but one less rigorous than the Saturday to Sunday snow storm.

“I’m sure people on the roadway thought it was a nightmare because the storm really hit its stride during the rush hour,” Miller said in an interview last night.

“But the weekend storm was a lot more difficult for us. We’ve got six inches on the ground already and it’s still snowing,” Miller said shortly before 10 p.m.

“We have an Angel Flight departing in the morning (today), so we need to stay on top of it. And we’ve been right on it since it started snowing today,” he said.