EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 12, 2013

Cleaning up after a blizzard takes time

Blizzard leaves a mess behind for plow operators

By Alex Lippa

---- — Highway officials want to see some of the snow melt, just not too fast.

They would like to see snowbanks shrink for visibility and space concerns, but too much too fast could mean flooded streets.

“Right now, I’d rather things stayed the way they are for the next couple of days and then it can melt all it wants,” said Rick Russell,director of public works in Salem.

Temperatures are expected to reach the high 30s this week, according to the National Weather Service.

“Our main concern is visibility and safety,” Russell said. “We want to make sure we push back the snowbanks so people can see when they’re turning.”

Crews were out salting yesterday. Route 28 was still a problem, Russell said, with large snowbanks encroaching on the road in some places and reducing travel space.

He was happy with how his crews handled the nearly 2 feet of snow that fell — and others appreciated their efforts, too.

“In the 19 years I’ve been here, this storm has been one of the only ones that received so many positive compliments from residents and businessmen,” Russell said. “We aren’t out there for pizza delivery cars, we are out there to keep roads open for emergency vehicles so police and fire can respond to residents and businesses. We are really proud we were able to do that.”

In Derry, crews were ready to continue the cleanup yesterday. But a wintry mix during the morning commute slowed them down.

“We were ready to start dealing with some of the sidewalks (yesterday) and start getting people get back to normal lives,” said Mike Fowler, Derry’s public works director. “But the 1 inch of snow this morning set us back a bit.”

It set some drivers back, too.

Highways were crowded with people returning to work yesterday morning when snow, then freezing rain slowed things down. The speed limit on Interstate 93 was lowered to 45 mph as visibility was reduced and road surfaces became slippery.

No major accidents were reported, but there were plenty of minor crashes and vehicles off the roadway.

Londonderry police Sgt. Mark Morrison said the rough weather combined with a busy commute led to several accidents in town.

“Generally speaking, road conditions are less than favorable,” he said. “Visibility is down because of high snowbanks. That, combined with the precipitation, is making things tough.”

Schools around the state were open, but some canceled after school-activities and sporting events.

Fowler said storms of this magnitude, officially a blizzard, can be tough.

“ We’ve had people working 40 to 50 hours over the last couple of days,” he said. “Some of our drivers are still pretty tired.”

But those crews will be out in the downtown late tonight, clearing out some of the snow, he said.

“One of the common complaints is that patrons can’t get to businesses and have to climb over snowbanks,” Fowler said. “We try to get through that during the snowfall, but the storm just piles up too quickly. It’s a pretty intense process. Basically we get six to eight pieces of equipment. We hire a couple of loaders and we clear everything we can.”

If another storm hits before crews can clean up from this one, there would be problems.

There’s a potential for another storm this weekend, but it’s too soon for meteorologists to say much about it.

Michael Cempa of the National Weather Service said it was unclear how much snow the region could see, but he wouldn’t rule out another significant snowfall on Sunday.

That would not be welcome.

“This storm, we had an advantage because there was no snow on the ground,” Fowler said. “But if we get another whopper, all bets are off.”

For now, crews will continue cleaning up and officials encourage residents to do the same. The weight of accumulated snow on roofs and decks is a concern.

Plaistow fire Chief John McArdle said residents may have dodged a bullet with this particular storm.

“The snow was very light and a lot of it blew right off because it was so windy,” he said. “I don’t think it’s on the same level of concern as it was two years ago. But people just need to make sure their roof drains are clear.”

Scott Lavoie of Derry offers snow and ice roof removal during the winter. He has received only three calls this week so far. But homeowners could have problems as the week progresses.

“It’s not so much about how much snow you have on your roof,” Lavoie said. “It’s a matter of when it rains, and when the sun melts the snow which determines if there may be problems.”