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Biggest Blizzard In A Century; Drivers Defying Ban Hinder City’s Efforts To Plow The Streets

by Melissa Bailey & Paul Bass | Feb 9, 2013 8:28 pm

(55) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Breaking News, Winter Storm Nemo

Allan Appel Photo Melissa Bailey Photo (Updated) Don’t expect your street to get plowed Sunday.

And if people keep trying to drive around town, it could take longer.

Meanwhile, it’s official—New Haven got hit with the biggest blizzard in a century.

That was the word Saturday evening as city officials raced to get a handle on the worst blizzard in a least a generation—the dumping of 34 inches by Winter Storm Nemo.

Clearing the historic snowfall could take the city a week.

School is officially canceled Monday, and probably will be canceled beyond that.

The 34 inches that fell overnight Friday exceeded the 1978 blizzard, city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts said Saturday night.

“This is a storm we haven’t seen in 100 years,” he said.

Because snow fell so fast between 10:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Friday—8 inches in all—the city had to ditch its plan to plow continuously. Instead, it had to dig out 9 fire engines, 27 cop cars, and 15 ambulances that got stuck.

Saturday the city succeeded in making the highest-priority roads —like Howard Avenue, Grand Avenue, Whalley, Dixwell, Townsend, Church & Chapel—passable for emergency vehicles.

Now the effort turns to the next level of high-traffic streets. The goal, according to Smuts, is to enable fire trucks and ambulances to get close enough to all streets in town, even unplowed streets, to handle emergencies.

In Westville and Edgewood, for example, that means clearing Alden, Chapel, Edgewood, Yale and Willard, Smuts said. The crews aren’t yet clearing both lanes of two-lane roads. Just one lane to get the fire trucks through if needed. They’ll return for the second lane in the next stage of the clearing.

As occurred the night before, while torrents of blinding snow dropped on the city, crews were tied up too often trying to get stuck and abandoned cars out of the streets. Officials continued pleading with people Saturday night not to drive.

“All these cars that were abandoned in the street. It’s holding us up,” Mayor John DeStefano said in a phone conversation from Dublin, Ireland, where he’s been attending a Council of Europe meeting on immigration. “People are getting out and driving. They’re getting stuck at intersections and they’re getting stuck at snow banks. They’re delaying the clean-up because they are getting stuck in large numbers.

Don’t drive, he said. Not Saturday night. Not Sunday. Period. Most roads will not be cleared enough for car traffic. Many won’t be plowed at all yet. It may take days for some side roads to be cleared.

“We’ll be mapping out where we stand tomorrow. We’ll be making judgments late afternoon tomorrow about how long we think it’s going to take us to clean the city,” DeStefano said.

He said he expects to fly back home Sunday. Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez has been the acting mayor in his absence. Friday afternoon Perez signed a document sharing with CAO Smuts the power to make decisions during the blizzard.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy lifted a statewide travel ban at 4 p.m. However, all city roads remain closed until further notice, according to Rick Fontana, the city’s deputy emergency operations director.

“Even if you think you might be able to make it,” Smuts said, don’t leave home in your car. He said the snow is so thick that a National Guard Humvee got stuck in it this morning.

“Don’t leave your house unless you are a plow driver or a tow truck driver who needs to get to work,” Smuts urged.

Abandoned cars included one owned by Axel Tupac. He was driving his small four-wheel-drive home down Poplar just off Grand Avenue at 9 p.m. Friday. He called his boss, Carl Z. (pictured at the top of the story), at Total Grounds Care, a landscaping company based in Hamden. When his boss arrived with his truck, the truck got stuck, too. Both vehicles remained immobilized until midday Saturday.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported, thankfully, through Saturday evening, according to Smuts.

Gov: Roads Closed All Day Saturday

At an 11 a.m. press conference Saturday, Malloy called the blizzard “a record-breaking storm” with snowfalls reported as high as 38 inches. It’s left roads impassable, and cars and snowplows stuck, all over Connecticut, he said. That’s what forced the travel ban, he said.

“Right now, our main priority is to clear roads,” Malloy said.

That will be much easier if the roads are empty of everything except plows and emergency vehicles.

“We certainly don’t want to see other people get caught in snow drifts,” Malloy said. “So, please stay home.”

One fatality was reported during the storm, he said: A Prospect woman in her early 80s was struck and killed by a car while out using a snowblower Saturday night. Malloy said there have been reported cases of hypothermia and other cold-related ailments from people who were stranded in the storm.

“We are seeing some of that, and obviously there is a big concern about how cold it is going to be tonight,” Malloy said.

The state is working with cities and towns to make sure there are shelters open, and transportation available, particularly for the elderly, he said.

Malloy said state residents need to stay home, and be patient, as they wait for the plows to clear the massive snowfall.

“This is going to go on for a number of days,” he said. “This will not all be done today.”

Dublin Calls

Saturday morning, Mayor John DeStefano phoned in from Dublin Saturday morning to urge New Haveners to stay off the roads.

DeStefano issued a recorded phone call through the city’s reverse-911 system Saturday morning from Ireland, where he has been since Tuesday at a National League of Cities conference.

He urged New Haveners to “stay home” so that the city can focus on clearing roads near the city’s two hospitals as well as main arterials for emergency vehicles.

“Do not go out on the roads the entire day Saturday,” he urged.

Melissa Bailey Photo The National Guard arrived at 2:30 a.m. to help New Haven’s cleanup efforts.

In addition to the Malloy-ordered closing of roads, CT Transit buses are not running Saturday and Metro-North train service has been suspended.

Police will be pulling over any non-emergency cars they see driving in New Haven and “challenging” them, DeStefano said. “You’ll be doing neither yourself or our ability to restore services any good” to drive.

The city will attempt to respond to life-threatening 911 calls, but because of the condition of the roads, “we will not be able to respond to every 911 call that we get.”

There will be “no parking downtown for the foreseeable future.” The city won’t be able to clear all the roads in the city until later this week, DeStefano said.

He offered these tips:

• Clear your CO vents to prevent carbon monoxide buildup in your home. 
• Clear snow from fire hydrants located near your property
• If your sidewalk includes a curb ramp (at a street intersection), please shovel that so the sidewalk is passable for wheelchair use
• Check on your neighbors (in person, or through SeeClickFix)
• Call the non-emergency line at 203-946-8221 for storm-related questions.

While thousands of people lost power throughout the state, New Haven dodged the bullet. There were no power outages as of 8 a.m. in New Haven, DeStefano reported.

While he’s still in Dublin, DeStefano “stopped his planned activities in Ireland” on Friday “and is working remotely on storm cleanup,” reported his spokeswoman, Anna Mariotti, Saturday morning.

“Get Some Rest”

City officials, led by CAO Smuts, have been working out of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the city’s underground bunker at 200 Orange St., to coordinate a response to the storm, just as they did during emergency weather events known as Sandy and Irene.

Melissa Bailey Photo Rick Fontana, deputy director of emergency management, briefed city officials during a meeting at 2 p.m. Friday. He read the latest weather report: Temperatures were about to drop below freezing. Winds were set to pick up to 15 to 25 miles per hour, creating a blizzard with up to five inches of snow per hour and zero visibility during the next 24 hours.

Tides were to surge between 2 and 4 feet over normal levels, causing floods of 1 to 3 feet in low-lying areas.

“This is going to be a significant storm,” Fontana warned.

Melissa Bailey Photo Fontana’s advice to New Haveners: “Don’t go out on the road. Stay in the house.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered all cars off highways as of 4 p.m. Friday.

Smuts urged staff who aren’t involved in plowing to get some rest and make arrangements to return to the EOC at 9 a.m. Saturday.

For the time being, all was calm.

Melissa Bailey Photo “Right now, it’s business as usual,” reported Doug Arndt (pictured), New Haven’s new public works chief. He said his crews have suffered no breakdowns. In general, the city will begin plowing streets after 2 to 3 inches of snowfall.

“There’s not much going on yet. We’re just waiting,” reported United Illuminating’s Melissa Gilbert. She said the company is bracing for a power outage of up to 32,000 customers, or 10 percent of its territory, which includes New Haven and surrounding towns.

The fire department will be checking flood-prone areas during high tides, which are set to fall at 9:40 p.m. and 10 a.m., according to Smuts. Smuts led the EOC meeting in the absence of Mayor John DeStefano, who is in Ireland.

Melissa Bailey Photo As he monitored developments from the EOC in the basement of the 200 Orange St. municipal office building earlier Friday, Smuts detailed the city’s plan for tackling the storm, the latest in a series of big weather “events” for which he’s helped oversee the government response since he assumed his post six years ago.

The Plows

Melissa Bailey Photo The city had 32 drivers—five contractors, the rest public-works employees—start a 14-hour shift at 5 a.m. Friday. They took the plows on the road: 21 big trucks known as “Class 8s,” 11 smaller 550s, “the type that plow a grocery store parking lot. Bigger than a normal pick-up you see on the street, but not like a dump-truck size,” Smuts said.

At first the crews are dumping a sand-liquid mix on the streets, especially at intersections and hills, “to provide traction and to help it melt.”

Once the snow starts accumulating on the streets, “we put our plows down and start pushing back,” Smuts said. “The stuff is going to be coming fast and heavy. We don’t want to fall behind.”

The first crew is working a 14-hour shift. At 7 p.m. another crew of 32 drivers is scheduled to replace it. From then on, the plan is to have each crew rotate on 12-hour shifts through the duration of the storm clean-up.

Smuts said they’ll probably just keep plowing all of New Haven’s 225 miles of road straight through. “If there is actually white-out conditions where they really can’t see at all we might suspend plowing. That’s very unusual, but they are talking about the potential of that later tonight.”

Each Class 8 plow driver is assigned about 10 to 11 miles of road. They hit the major thoroughfares more often than the side streets. But their assignment does cover all roads in their area except the cul-de-sacs and other streets too narrow to maneuver their plows. The “550s” tackle those smaller stretches. They are expected to get to each and every small spot at least once per shift and “hopefully more than that,” Smuts said.

Back in January of 2011 Mother Nature whacked New Haven with 42 inches of snow in a series of debilitating storms whose ferocity caught the city by surprise. From Fair Haven to Dixwell to West Rock, neighbors complained about a poor plowing response. (Read about that here.)  People living on some small streets like Westville’s Richmond Avenue and Burton appealed for plows to remember them. In East Rock, some narrow streets were unplowable—because people hadn’t moved their cars. Out of that contentious experience, officials and neighbors realized that everyone wanted more advance notice and advance towing to prevent the problem rather than chase after it later.

Which is one reason that ...

Parking, Towing, Trees & Floods

... the city plans to start towing cars mid-day Friday if they’re parked less than 25 feet away from intersections, fire hydrants or bus stops. “Intersections are a big issue, particularly in dense neighborhoods like the Hill and East Rock,” Smuts said.

The city has not declared any parking bans for Friday during the day. A downtown parking ban starts at 10 p.m. However Smuts advises people to move their cars off downtown streets earlier than that, because they might have more trouble later on. Click here for details on the downtown ban.

You can park for free at numerous downtown and Wooster Square lots and garages. Click here for details.

Meanwhile, the city has put its tree crews on call. As soon as the storm stops, the crews will swing into action to remove downed trees and branches, Smuts said.

The high winds are expected to lead to some water surges along the coast. “We’re keeping an eye on that,” Smuts said. The city has stationed sawhorses by streets that often flood, like Townsend and Dean in the Cove and Hemingway in the Heights.

The Homeless

Homeless shelters, which usually close during the day, are staying open Friday. Outreach workers are on the street looking for people to bring in from the wet and the cold.

Unlike with Superstorm Sandy, the city is not at this point planning to open an overflow shelter of its own for displaced families, Smuts said. But it has a contingency plan to do so in the case of significant power outages, he said.

In the meantime, anyone with questions or concerns can call the EOC at 203-946-8221. Eight people are already working there Friday morning, with two dedicated to handling the phones.

Parker Collins Photo

Gwyneth K. Shaw and Allan Appel contributed reporting.

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posted by: robn on February 8, 2013  11:57am

Could the city enlist meter readers to troll neighborhoods after the storm and issue tickets to property owners that don’t shovel their walks? It would be nice if New Haven doesn’t turn into Beirut like it did 2 years ago.

posted by: Rob Smuts on February 8, 2013  12:40pm

We added a couple contractors and we’re up to 29 Class 8s now.

The City will be enforcing against private plowers who plow into the streets, and doing some enforcement of unshoveled sidewalks. We typically enforce in commercial areas and main arteries, mainly. Please help your neighbors out - we have a lot of elderly and disabled individuals who could use a hand keeping their sidewalks clear (or a neighbor who’s out of town). My neighbor’s a great guy, and usually shovels my little sidewalk when I’m stuck on EOC duty - let’s all help each other out.

- Rob Smuts, Chief Administrative Officer

posted by: HhE on February 8, 2013  1:24pm

I do wish people would make the extra effort to not park in the street.  On my block, everyone has a driveway, yet their are six cars on the street. 

I like robn’s idea: lets treat lazy jerks as a revenue stream. 

In my ten plus years, I have often shoved my neighbour’s walks.  I agree with Mr. Smuts that is the right thing to do—up to a point.  Some people just cannot be bothered.

posted by: robn on February 8, 2013  1:25pm

Absentee landlords and tenants who have signed on to sidewalk maintenance shouldn’t get a free pass by creating the illusion that they are the elderly. In the end its the elderly that are harmed by lax enforcement because its they who are most vulnerable to injury on icy sidewalks.

posted by: jdossgollin on February 8, 2013  1:47pm

Sounds like things are a bit better organized than two years ago. Here’s one thing on my mind for @Rob Smuts:

It seems like by far the most logical solution, at least in residential areas, would be to declare a universal ban on parking on one side of the street. That would make the job of the snow plows much easier, would let a much wider swath of street be cleared,  and would reduce the number of people who get “plowed in”. Is there a reason we can’t do that in the future? It seems like a tool to make peoples’ lives much better. There are a couple of potential problems, but they should be pretty easy to solve. Not enough parking: there are enough parking spaces, particularly when the suburban commuters are not taking up spaces. The City could also open lots such as Wilbur Cross and other city-owned properties for people who couldn’t find a place to park. People are out of town: It would suck to leave town and then come back to find your car towed or snowed in. However, as long as people know ahead of time which side of the street is legal for parking, they can leave it on the other side if they are leaving town during the winter months. Getting the word out: Always a challenge, but can certainly be done. The Aldermen would be a great resource for this.

As a test run, it might be good to try it in one or two neighborhoods first, then phase it in if it is successful. Is this something that we can do?

posted by: member on February 8, 2013  3:13pm

Also if you have a fire hydrant near your property please shovel it and keep visible so we can locate it during a fire.

posted by: robn on February 8, 2013  3:52pm

JDG#8

2 years ago after the blizzard(s) l suggested odd side parking on odd days and vice Versa. City just announced some even side parking for narrow streets. Most sense I’ve seen in years.

GC

Agreed and dont forget curb cuts and street drains. When the melt begins, better into the storm drain than into your basement.

posted by: member on February 8, 2013  4:55pm

Be sure you know where your furnace vents some vent on side of house and can be low alot of condo will have this with a white PVC pipe clear snow or you will get CO

posted by: Threefifths on February 8, 2013  9:31pm

For the high taxes you pay in New Haven the city should take care of the people property.

posted by: Stu71 on February 8, 2013  11:02pm

Gary Cole can you please explain what you mean by you can get CO? What is CO? Is that code for something?

posted by: HhE on February 9, 2013  9:50am

Stu71, CO is carbon monoxide.

posted by: robn on February 9, 2013  10:14am

Gary means Carbon Monoxide exhaust from your boiler.

posted by: Edward Francis on February 9, 2013  11:38am

Stu71 & others. CO is the common reference to Carbon Monoxide (Poisoning)...

posted by: SaveOurCity on February 9, 2013  12:03pm

Glad to see improved organization….however, I struggle with the fact that the blindingly high taxes that we pay in New Haven don’t entitle use to basic services.  A plow oce a day or a police response to problems within 15 minutes doesn’t seem like too much to ask

posted by: HhE on February 9, 2013  12:55pm

SaveOurCity, have you been outside?  I had to walk two blocks, and back.  I was exhausted from it.  I went to college in NYS snow belt, and this is a serious storm.  Did you not read that plows cannot handle 2 feet at once?  “Entitled” is about the right descriptor.  Really.

posted by: robn on February 9, 2013  3:43pm

SOC

The storm was extraordinary.Last night at @9 I heard a faint sound like somebody banging a metal trash can. Got louder and louder and turned out to be a dump truck sized plow that was fighting its way down the street. The banging noise was the plow bouncing up and down because the snow was so deep already. It was then I realized we’ll be digging out for at least a week.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 9, 2013  6:14pm

Woodbridge had their streets open at 5am today including their side residential streets. The idea that it would take a week to clear these streets is absurd. We live in the NE - this is the best the city can do with all that planning and money and emergency center BS? Geez. Maybe if the plows had kept moving, they could have kept the main streets open. I understand it’s a lot of snow - but a week, a payloader? Two years ago it was another excuse.

And by the way, nice of the mayor to phone it in. Not cool. Not appreciated.

posted by: robn on February 9, 2013  6:30pm

That all being said, there’s been a total of 1 plow pass on Orange Street in the past 12 hours. With 21 large plows operating shouldn’t each ward expect to see a plow go down their major thoroughfare at least once an hour? Is our plowing, like our tree trimming, now doled out as a political favor by the new BOA supermajority?

posted by: Edward Francis on February 9, 2013  7:28pm

Noteworthy and Robn make good points, however, it is easy to be a Monday (Saturday) morning quarterback and have all the answers.  I accept the delay in plowing my side street.  There is an old saying “the proof is in the pudding!”. Perhaps Noteworthy and Robn could volunteer in the future to ride with a snow plow to monitor their beliefs! Just sayin.

posted by: Wildwest on February 9, 2013  7:48pm

We had Cherry Hill private contractors plowing our street all day Friday until about 5pm(6” of snow all day) and then when it really started snowing they disappeared and didn’t show up all night long.

They and the city ought to hire drivers familiar with snow and how to drive and plow in it.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on February 9, 2013  8:10pm

with you on that one Robn. at least do an access run so people can get to work on monday. Downtown looks like there was no blizzard while the citizens are trapped. was the whole fleet down there making it pretty?  I was told days. and rudely told days! I think that is what got me on a role!  They need to do a pass down all streets and then worry about loading it out but at least get us to work on monday with a simple plow threw….I am not picky it does not have to be as clean as down town is. they can do that while we are at work. less cars means it will be easyier but if we can not get out of dodge it will be the job harder! And I get it was a big one, will I get a payloader? or will they do a simple pass in a few days and leave the snow because I am in a poor community? Let big one my area barely saw a plow. grrrr I got snow rage we poor folks need to get to work on monday!

Noteworthy hamden to!

posted by: robn on February 9, 2013  10:43pm

EF,

Not Monday morning QBing to expect major thoroughfares (not side streets) to be at least one lane clear. This is for at the minimum, emergency purposes.  Orange Street is one such thoroughfare. Instead, now 14 hours after the snow has stopped, I see lots of attention being paid to Willow Street and Whitney Ave…to rip a page from ANONYMOUS’s playbook, do we constantly need to cater to suburban commuters before local needs are met?


PS. I’d be happy to pilot, rather than ride shotgun in a plow, because I’m familiar with the concept of mechanical advantage.

posted by: robn on February 9, 2013  10:51pm

PS

It took me 4 times as long to clear my walks and I recognize that the city will face similar obstacles at a greater scale. But when I see Willow and Whitney cleared and Orange Street unplowed for a whole day it makes me think that the city’s priorities lay in getting suburban university workers from I-91 to Yale and not ... say, getting stroke and heart attack victims from East Rock to St Rafe’s.

posted by: streever on February 10, 2013  12:32am

@Noteworthy
Woodbridge doesn’t have a slew of jerks who parked on banned parking spots. Unfortunately, too many people own too many cars, and too many of those people chose not to avail themselves of the parking options available, so plows are having a hard time.

I don’t understand who the people are driving around. Do they not realize that this is a blizzard? Stay home!

I found an SUV stuck at Canner/Orange today, and was irritated for a moment, but discovered it was the Chief of Police (Esserman), trying to return home after what was probably a 12-15 hour shift. Poor guy.

A bunch of neighbors and I shoveled him clear and then pushed him and off he went.

Running this operation is a tough job—unrewarding and hard—I hope that everyone who works for the city is being safe and looking after themselves!

It is really wonderful to see so many people in East Rock (and I presume elsewhere) out helping their neighbors with shoveling, stuck cars, and etc. I hope to see more people tomorrow: Elicker called for a shovel brigade to meet at Lulu’s on Cottage Street.

posted by: robn on February 10, 2013  8:26am

PPS

DPW swung down Orange at 3am (FWIW, before my bitching and moaning had been posted). Thanks guys and gals.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 10, 2013  9:46am

New Haven has an impressive number of jerks and the self-absorbed, unconcerned for others, who dont want to be slightly inconvenienced by parking correctly, using common sense and taking their cars of the streets. In Westville, Edgewood Avenue where homes have driveways and plenty of off street parking, residents routinely never remove their cars - not now, not before. Those choosing to drive around in a blizzard with neither the skill or the vehicle that can handle it are just as bad.

I understand these people create problems in snow removal. However, two years ago, we had the same problem. While this storm is epic, a lot of money and time is spent planning for such catastrophic events - in the end, the mayor is out of town on a junket and those in charge lost control of the city. What good is it to scrape all of downtown to the curbs, all around the hospitals relentlessly if the people can’t get there? Or the ambulances can’t get to the people?

Ed Francis: If I had all the answers, I’d be a god. In the meantime, I’m just a citizen with an extraordinary tax bill and a small expectation that the basics be done, that planning be solid and if expertise is lacking, that those in charge will tap into others who do. This may be a 100 year storm here, but it’s not to others. No excuses.

posted by: SaveOurCity on February 10, 2013  11:41am

cedarhillresident! and Noteworthy:  Great points.  It’s sad that we can spend $60 Millions per year paying the interest on our debt but we can’t help our citizens.  A woman we know in Edgewood spent last night huddled over a space heater because she had a furnace problem yesterday and no technician can get to her.  How much does she care about the importance of clearing downtown streets. 

..Somewhere, someone needs to feel a level of urgency about this.

posted by: anonymous on February 10, 2013  12:09pm

I agree that heavy ticketing of the improperly stored vehicles would help, for future reference.

Property owners who don’t clear their sidewalk also should face very large fines, beginning today.

I’d rather see a few hundred city slumlords hit with $250 tickets than have someone break their knee and become permanently crippled after they slip on five inches of solid ice.

Once emergency access is provided on the roads, the next priority should be clearing the sidewalks and curb cuts along city-owned properties, so that people can at least walk to work or catch a bus.

posted by: lrnoff on February 10, 2013  12:19pm

I live at the far end of Westville, and my street just got plowed. So there is hope.

posted by: HenryCT on February 10, 2013  2:04pm

Thousands of people without jobs. Hire them to dig us out. For able bodied home owners and landlords not shoveling sidewalks - add cost of having others do it to their tax bills. There are businesses along Whalley Ave that never shovel their sidewalks. Fine them. Are walkers extinct? No, so how is it that snowplows see the sidewalks at intersections as the place to dump snow? Does it take the city of Stockholm or Helsinki a week to dig out after a snowstorm? If not, why does it take New Haven so long?

posted by: dmarie on February 10, 2013  2:18pm

WOOSTER STREET has not been plowed. All these businesses on the street, hundreds of residents in condo/co-op complexes and private homes, and direct access to I-95, and no plow. Franklin, the road that intersects Wooster at the I-95 entrance ramp, has also not been plowed. How is it possible that a street in outer Westville is plowed, but not Wooster?

posted by: anonymous on February 10, 2013  2:24pm

HenryCT is absolutely right. There should be enormous fines for failing to provide pedestrian access. Not everyone drives. Every year, the conditions that result from snowstorms like this are a moral outrage. 

Many dozens of walkers fall and are injured by the uncleared ice - something that’s never reported because the newspapers don’t visit the trauma rooms. Maybe Paul Bass can change that this winter?

All city officials, and most of the elites in East Rock, East Shore, and Westville who vote, drive everywhere.  So they simply do not care about this population (which comprises most of our city).

posted by: Pat from Westville on February 10, 2013  3:40pm

To Anonymous and HenryCT: Amen to your suggestions for enforcing the requirement that property owners are responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks. I am proud to say that my condo complex takes this very seriously, our snow removal guy had not only plowed our driveway & parking area behind our building but also cleared both the street sidewalk and our courtyard sidewalks before noon Saturday. Hefty fines should be levied on delinquent property owners.

I haven’t seen it yet after this storm but the gaa station at the corner of Whalley & Fitch almost never does anything about sidewalk clearance. And at present (2:30PM) the sidewalk bordering St. Aedan’s church here in Westville are still waist deep in snow.

The other problem is that even when the sidewalks are clear of snow, there is a huge wall of snow deposited by the plows between the street and the sidewalk. This makes it very difficult for bus passengers (I am one, as you may have guessed) to get on and off buses. The city needs to do something about this as a regular part of planning for snow removal after snow storms, as I suggested elsewhere here trucking it away as was done 2 years ago.

posted by: FrontStreet on February 10, 2013  4:33pm

ah, time for a good old fashioned rant.

One, count it, one plow/snow remover has been down Front Street since Friday nite. 

To my knowledge, little if any plowing activity last night on any streets in Fair Haven from Ferry to the Q River between Chapel and Middletown Rd.

Went running this morning along whitney.  Crappy streets until the moment I crossed the Hamden line, then nice salting, two lanes on both sides, primary and secondary streets plowed.

Where are state plows, where is national guard? 

Where is sense of urgency at city hall?  This could become tragic quickly (elderly who need dialysis, various medical emergencies, fires etc).

Is anyone at city hall kicking some a** to get this snow removed?

posted by: streever on February 10, 2013  4:37pm

I am all for criticzing the city (really!) but I honestly wonder if there is a better way to do this.

Considering the width of our streets, the sheer quantity of streets, and the number of cars, do people honestly think it would be fiscally possible to be “prepared” for this type of storm?

Think about how much the proper plows cost. How many of those do we want to subsidize existing for a snow fall that comes once ever century?

I think the criticism is slightly disconnected from the reality of the enormous cost that the type of infrastructure people want is prohibitively expensive to maintain year-round.

You know what would practically improve the problem and cost less in ongoing costs? Less road infrastructure.

New Haven is vastly over-built in roads. I didn’t see anyone in the last 2 days who didn’t love the speed on Orange (0 to 10 mph) and the ability to walk down the street en masse.

What would be cheaper and more sustainable would be a whole society built around that. If we see any fundamental change in our city, I hope it is that.

posted by: Wildwest on February 10, 2013  6:53pm

Streever- while I can agree with most of your points I also have to wonder if you are a property owner in New Haven who pays the highest tax rate known to the NE/country. If you are I apologize now but if you are not you may expect city services to function on your behalf if you were to pay out thousands every year out of your hard earned paycheck. You may hate cars but many people really rely on them like cops, firemen, EMTs, doctors, and people that keep your heat on so your pipes dont burst.

posted by: anonymous on February 10, 2013  7:01pm

Pat you are absolutely right. The bus pedestrian access needs to be cleared. As soon as ambulances can get through that needs to be next on the list.  And let’s roll out the huge fines to every delinquent property owner.

Streever is also right. In other US cities there are plenty of narrow one lane streets, grass paved streets, and “yield streets” with 10MPH limits. Why can’t we do that here? It seems like the city designs everything as a highway, even if it is a cul de sac. People want to live in sustainable neighborhoods not drag race tracks.

posted by: Bitter NH business owner on February 10, 2013  7:55pm

I am not surprised to see our outgoing mayor on vacation in Dublin Ireland at taxpayer expense. A true politician…Is it really necessary for him to attend a conference?  He is lame duck.

posted by: streever on February 10, 2013  8:34pm

@Wildwest
The inordinate amount of rent I pay, which increases at 1.25 times the rate of taxes, absolutely does mean that I pay my fair share of taxes. Do you think my landlord pays them?

You and I are more alike than you may realize. You have stability and an asset at the end, but I have flexibility and maneuver room.

Regardless, while our taxes are high, I honestly think that your need to be able to drive on day 2 of a blizzard doesn’t actually trump the reality of simply not needing to spend as much money—per year—as it would require to have the type of snow response you seem to expect.

This is a once in a century blizzard. My question still stands. Should the city have paid over the last 100 years to have infrastructure in place to handle this emergency?

I would say the answer is obviously no.

You’ve made a personal decision to live in a way that needs a car: you have! I know families that don’t require cars. I know er doctors who don’t use cars. It is your choice, based on what works for you, to live in a way that necessitates car use on day 2 of a blizzard that is the worst in 100 years.

I’ve made a different life choice—that is all. Neither of us needs to snipe at the other because of that. We are more alike than we are different.

posted by: ElmJackCity on February 10, 2013  8:41pm

It seemed the snow removal response came far too late.  Plows were not found on Union Ave. in front of Union Station until Saturday morning.

In the mid-west storms receive consist removal and treatment, all night long.  Plows are constantly moving snow and treating the roadway.

That simply did not occur in New Haven. From what I heard, most units were reserving product (salt, sand, etc.) until after the storm passed.

@Robn: If one’s road is not cleared how can you fine a resident for not clearing their sidewalk?  I’m just sayin’ lol What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  Speaking to the point, my neighbors and I used snow-blowers to clear the street so we could move our vehicles.  The amount of snow removed from the street required that we put it onto the sidewalk and make a path for our homes.

My number one complaint?  Off-street parking other than in the Downtown area was not planned.  The schools (and maybe religious centers) should have been plowed, and residents would then be able to park there instead of in the street.

posted by: ElmJackCity on February 10, 2013  9:04pm

FrontStreet wrote the passage below: (I fully agree with it, and it speaks to the Beauty of Nemo BS article.  Who was removing the snow from your street during that escapade?  No worried about how you will get to work while cross-country skiing?)

Where are state plows?  Where is national guard?  Where is leadership from city hall, communication with state authorities, sense of urgency?  NHI is playing cheerleader but should be asking why, for 2nd time in 3 years, New Haven is unable to respond to snow emergency. It really seems like city hall just doesn’t care or see how lack of access to roads effects real people (not talking about cute east rockers walking on Orange Ave on way to grad school labs).

posted by: HhE on February 10, 2013  10:33pm

I find many of these comments for frustrating than the snow.

A number of, my self included, have objected to excessive spending on low risk contingencies.  An example is the fire boat.  We have never needed one, but some day we might, so we have one.  Meanwhile, we have one more maintenance cost.

The city could have purchased assets to hand a storm of the century.  Assuming these assets could be keep at the ready for 25 years (a typical life cycle), than 1/4th of these expensive machines would actually get used in their intended role. 

Cope people.  Maybe you will miss a day of work, or even two.  I think your boss just might understand.  Walk to where you need to go.  My 5 1/2 year olds did.  There is a reason I keep Spam and like like in my pantry.  Treat this as a big adventure, a chance to bond with your family and community.  Enough with the deus ex machina. 

I also find very selfish the number of cars parked on the streets.  I would support significant files for that, and not clearing a side walk.  Off street parking was on offer from the city.  I find the view “I’ll clear my sidewalk once the city clears the street” lame.  Taking responsibility is not about waiting until someone comes through. 

Finally, I take issue with this East Rock Elite theme.  Stop beating that dead horse all the way through the glue factory.  Yes, some people in East Rock are actually Upper Middle Class.  Most are not.  Many are well educated.  What is so bad about that?  So many complain that this or that is not well run.  Well, we need more people to have a really good education then, not less.

posted by: FrontStreet on February 10, 2013  10:58pm

HhE. - with regard to east rock effites, the issue is that NHI tends to report from that POV.  Maybe your boss will understand if you take a day or two off (upper middle class bosses can be like that sometimes).  But many people will lose badly needed income if they are unable to get to work tomorrow.  NHI is missing the real emerging story in this one - the incompetence and lack of preparation on city and state levels for a major snow emergency.

posted by: ElmJackCity on February 10, 2013  10:58pm

@Hhe

We did clear our sidewalk after we cleared the street. FYI

The issue is that with the same resources that the city does possess they could have done a more effective job.  Yesterday I witnessed a column of SIX class 8 PLOWS stuck on Bassett St. because the plow in front was stuck.  Does that make sense?

My issue is the lack of preparedness, not in terms of resources but, in the area of design.  What is the snow removal/treatment plan for the city?  Is it here’s your plow, follow your buddies and hit this area?

Relative to East Rock, if one followed the herds of people walking up and down Dixwell Ave. not one person was recreating, wearing skis.  Everyone was carrying or walking with children, most had groceries.  Blame them for not preparing? Fine. 

As for self-responsibility, I am all for it.  We were stocked, took care of our portion and the city’s snow.  We worked with neighbors to handle a common problem.  But, did my taxes pay for it?  Did my taxes pay for the mayor’s trip to Ireland? 

The quantity of report about the problem of snow build-up is a definitive sample about the city’s lack of preparedness.  It does not matter if we get one foot or three feet.

Where was the off-street parking for the neighborhoods?  Were people supposed to drive downtown then walk home?

posted by: Noteworthy on February 10, 2013  11:31pm

A couple of observations:
1. Waiting until the city has cleared the streets before clearing sidewalks is not lame. I cleared my sidewalk which runs right next to the street. While the street had been cleared by hand to a single lane by neighbors, when the truck finally came by, it threw 5 feet of compacted snow and ice on the entire length of sidewalk that took me several hours to clear. It will take me twice as long as the first time to now clear it again.

2. It is not wise to buy the equipment to handle a 100 year storm. It is wise to make arrangements for extra equipment when you know for a week that an epic weather event is coming. There are hundreds of pickup trucks with snowplows - if it doesn’t get away from you, this would have worked. It takes planning and thoughtful preparation and execution.

3. It’s time to fine and tag cars violating the parking bans. Turn parking enforcement loose on these people. The fine should be really painful - $300 - and it should be promoted, part of press releases and given to the media so that people have no excuse for their sorry behavior. Parking in the garages should be free; we should use school parking lots, surface lots and any non-street parking available. The mayor should ask people with parking to take in their neighbor’s cars for the storm, just to clear the streets. Agreements have to be forged in advance, not last minute. If people can’t take personal responsibility to do their part, then they’ll have to pay the price of non-compliance.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on February 10, 2013  11:32pm

When SHTF “government” means neighbors, not elected officials: http://seeclickfix.com/issues/395823

posted by: HhE on February 11, 2013  1:07am

Where exactly are these extra assets supposed to come from?  This is a regional problem, not one confined to New Haven.  The issue was not just how much snow fell, but how fast.

Why is it the city’s responsibility to provide free off street parking?  If one owns a car, one ought to take the responsibility that comes with.  Worse case, make friends with one that has a large drive. 

If the mayor went to Ireland on tax payer funded trip, then that is beyond the pale.  If however, he took a bus driver’s holiday on hook a bus driver’s holiday at his own expense, then so what?  One of the best measures of good leadership is that the leader does not need to be present because they have selected and trained subordinates to a high standard.

posted by: Threefifths on February 11, 2013  2:08am

The towns can use this to get rid of the snow.

Snow Removal Systems - P100 snow melter demonstration


http://youtu.be/LmDl_nETs8U

posted by: anonymous on February 11, 2013  8:08am

So they are hiring day Laborers now. Why wasn’t a network of day Laborers set up prior to the storm? Even if they hasn’t been hired, the network would have been there for times like this and they could have gotten out working right after the storm hit.

posted by: jdossgollin on February 11, 2013  8:28am

A lot of people have been posting about how it doesn’t make sense to buy enough equipment to quickly deal with a storm of the century. True, but we were un-prepared two years ago. This snow was comparable to the blizzard of 78, which was not 100 years ago, and there have been lots of times in between when the city hasn’t been prepared. So if we’re not ready for the storm of the century, we should at least be ready for the storm of the year. We’re not and it’s a problem. We dug out a street (yes street—about half a block of Oakley) because people need to work and the city isn’t able/willing to come clear the street. If it really was a storm far worse than anything we ever have seen, it would be understandable. But it’s not. At the very least the city needs to invest in putting together a real snow emergency plan and enough equipment to execute that plan. If this happens once it’s one thing, but if it’s happening every year that’s another. I hope that basic competence issues like this are an issue in the upcoming mayoral elections. This isn’t Atlanta; we need to be prepared for the things that regularly happen here.

posted by: streever on February 11, 2013  5:01pm

OK, so, if this really is just a “New Haven sucks” issue, why don’t you all move to Hamden?

Oh, that is right, they are still snowed in too.

Relax. Yes, you missed 3 days of work. Yes, your employer is going to freak out. Yes, it sucks! it is hard. No one is saying it isn’t.

We’re just saying, seriously, the ranting doesn’t help and if you all knew how to handle this situation, maybe you should have drafted comprehensive proposals for the entire region, which is similiarly affected.

For every SCF or NHI post I see about how awesome Hamden handled it, I see a post from a friend of mine in Hamden complaining about how bad it is there too.

I think people need to get a grip. I’m willing to let “snow madness” be an excuse, but get over it. If your employer does not like you complying with a LEGAL BAN on driving, then they need to get a grip too.

I’m happy to call them and explain the concept if they are being grumpy.

posted by: FrontStreet on February 11, 2013  6:12pm

In December 2010, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC faced blistering criticism for failure to effectively coordinate snow removal after historic storm (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20026740-503544.html). 

In response to critics, he re-structured the city’s snow response system and the next time around, the NYC public works got the job done.

New Haven had similar problems with snow removal two years ago and obviously little has changed. Leadership needs to be proactive, not reactive.  I will rant and rave because it’s not enough to say “be patient, this may take a week, folks”.  Not again.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 11, 2013  6:27pm

How does Syracuse, New York, a city of comparable size and population to New Haven deal with their winter storms? Do they do a good job clearing there snowstorms, which are typically much more severe than New Haven’s? What resources do they have? How much does it cost? How much do residents pay in taxes? Does the city have an easily replicated plan of action for dealing with winter storms? Can we learn something worthwhile from Syracuse, Rochester or Canadian cities?

Putnam and Whitney Avenues in Hamden were pretty much a pedestrian nightmare this afternoon with few shoveled sidewalks and flooded streets/compacted icy conditions. Dixwell Avenue in Hamden, which is usually awful for anyone not in a crash-rated vehicle was more hospitable for pedestrians than the New Haven sections due most likely to the absence of on-street parking in Hamden. Dixwell between Division and Munson was awful - practically one lane for some stretches. Dixwell Avenue in New Haven definitely could have been plowed and salted better though.

Saturday was really convenient for pedestrians because the streets - Whalley Avenue in particular - were very safe and it took the same amount of time to walk places that it normally does for me even though I had to walk slower, which was compensated for by not having to stop at every intersection to wait for a walk light.

posted by: anonymous on February 11, 2013  7:44pm

FrontStreet is absolutely correct. Unfortunately, there is currently no proactive planning in our government - everything is reactive.  The city has come out with one or two plans over the years, but then rushed to do the exact opposite of them.

Jonathan Hopkins is also right about the fairness issue. There are some cities that measure the delay faced by pedestrians due to walk lights. To promote fairness, these delays should be balanced between drivers and walkers, if not favoring non-motorized users (who are more likely to get tired than someone using a gas pedal). Currently, pedestrians can take extra hours to get across a city just due to the time added by walk lights, whereas the time added by lights to a cross-city car trip is typically no more than 10 minutes.

Unfortunately the city has never measured this fairness issue, perhaps because they are completely controlled by suburban-based interests who have no desire to create a city where more people might choose to walk places.

posted by: HhE on February 11, 2013  8:14pm

FrontStreet, in the words of 3/5ths, “Keep voting them in.”  We had a credible challenger last race, who was very driven by better, more efficient solutions.


On to Syracuse, and all that.  I went to college an hour North of there (which in up state New York terms is basically next door).  I do not know what the costs are to their approach, but NYS does not have Home Rule, so the burden is more spread out across the entire state.  They have a lot more heavy equipment, which they use repeatedly every year, so it represents much better value for money.  People in the New York snow belt do not leave their cars on the street, and they do shovel out the walks (where they exist) promptly.  It is part of the culture. 

Yes, I think we can learn from Syracuse.  A lot more than we can from Ireland, which does not exactly get a lot of snow.

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