Blizzard update: ‘There was no way you were going to keep up’

The city was prepared, but then the snow kept coming.

“Conditions were brutal,” is how George Stachowicz, city highway maintenance supervisor, described the blizzard of Feb. 8 and 9 in Shelton.

And Stachowicz should know. He was there, working around the clock with other city workers and outside contractors, to try to move all that white stuff from the 210 miles of roadways in Shelton.

“There was no way you were going to keep up with that storm,” said Stachowicz, pointing out 5 to 6 inches an hour fell for a period in the middle of the night.

Stachowicz gave a presentation on Shelton’s snow removal efforts to the Board of Aldermen on Thursday night.

 

Praise from aldermen

Aldermen praised the efforts of the crews, calling it a “historic snowstorm” that caused problems in towns and cities throughout the state. Aldermen said crews worked hard, and the request and complaint calls coming in were handled professionally.

“I think you did the best job you could,” said Alderman Anthony F. Simonetti, adding the roads in Shelton appeared to be in better shape than those in many other communities.

“It was a tremendously historic storm,” Alderman Eric McPherson said. “Everyone was so professional in getting things done.”

“It was a storm of immense proportions,” said Alderman John F. Anglace Jr., board president. Anglace said he wanted to “add my accolades” to the job done by city crews.

 

Helping the sick

Alderman John P. Papa said when two people requiring kidney dialysis needed to get out, their roads were given priority and cleared. “They appreciated that,” Papa said.

“We had a lot of calls like that,” Stachowicz said.

There also was plenty of praise for the efforts of firefighters, EMS and other city emergency personnel, who trekked long distances through snow and even used snowmobiles to reach locations.

 

‘We were prepared’

Stachowicz said the city had 24 plows, four front-end loaders, three backhoes, three small dump trucks and three pickup trucks ready for the storm, supplemented by adequate fuel supplies, other needed materials, working generators, and a list of available outside contractors.

“We were as prepared as any town in the state,” he said.

City crews handled 21 plow routes and outside contractors were responsible for two plow routes. Priority was given to main roads.

 

Midnight to 6 a.m. was overwhelming

They did their best to keep up, but about midnight the situation became overwhelming. The state stopped plowing. Municipal trucks got stuck, trucks broke down, and trucks ran out of gas. Private cars became stuck in the middle of streets and were abandoned, becoming obstacles.

Almost all plowing stopped from midnight to sunrise on Saturday morning due to the intense conditions.

After sunrise and as the snow stopped, up to 14 contractors were called in to assist, with more outside vendors added as the day progressed. By Monday morning, 24 contractors were working for the city. Some snow-removing equipment was being operated 24/7.

By Monday night, one lane was open on all roads in Shelton, Stachowicz told the aldermen.

 

Worse: White Hills and Pine Rock

Stachowicz said the White Hills and Pine Rock Park neighborhoods presented the most challenges. A person-driven industrial snowblower was utilized in Pine Rock Park.

He said only two roads in Shelton essentially remained open throughout the storm — Meadow Street and Perry Hill Road — and that had required non-stop attention by plows.

Most people were grateful for their efforts, according to Stachowicz. “For the most part, we received a lot of praise from residents,” he said.

 

List of questions

Anglace read a list of questions from residents, noting some complaints included valid points.

These included the lack of public updates by city entities, including the Department of Emergency Management (SheltonEmergency.com); the failure of the city to utilize social media such as Facebook and Twitter; and the need for people to get prescription drugs (doctors won’t renew prescriptions for certain drugs until a few days before they run out).

Anglace read off other comments that appeared less valid, such as why dead-end streets were plowed so late (the city snow removal policy makes them the lowest priority); why schools were kept closed for so long (a decision made by education officials based on student safety issues); and what would have happened if there was a fire (fire and EMS crews were responding to calls, but with delays due to the conditions).

 

Comparing to other towns

One resident told Anglace in an email that while many Shelton residents weren’t plowed out for three days, people in Easton, Monroe and Oxford were able to access roads the day after the storm.

Anglace noted the resident had chosen not to compare Shelton to Bridgeport or New Haven, where it took even longer to clear roads.

The public communication problems may be solved soon by hiring an outside firm to handle reverse 9-1-1 messages, according to Anglace. City officials had met with one possible reverse 9-1-1 vendor earlier in the day, he said.

 

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