“Mashed-Potato” Ice Slows The Dig-Out

Paul Bass PhotosThe rain that limited the snowfall in Tuesday’s blizzard left behind craters of “mashed potato” ice that complicated New Haven’s efforts to dig out Wednesday.

Mother Nature cut New Haven a break in the blizzard. The storm moved westward Tuesday, shifting the brunt to other parts of the region with 20 inches of snow. And warmer-than-expected temperatures turned New Haven’s snow to rain mid-day. So the city ended up having no more than 10 inches to clear off the roads.

But that rain seeped into snow to create “mashed potato” mounds throughout town, in the words of city emergency management chief Rick Fontana. As soon as temperatures froze, those mounds froze, too. And got really heavy.

“The ‘mashed potato’ gets hard and crusty and ices up. The trucks don’t like it. Every street in the city has it,” Fontana said.

That slowed down the plows that crews continued to drive throughout the night into the morning. A couple of trucks broke down. Three of the parks department’s Toro sidewalk machines jammed and needed repairs as well. Thanks to a largely successful parking ban — which remains in effect —narrow streets that were impassable in the last storm were cleared. But the mashed-potato mounds left some other side streets impassable, especially in Newhallville.

Public works crews will continued to work 16-hour shifts through Wednesday into Thursday to continue clearing the roads. Until Thursday at 6 a.m., the city banned parking on all downtown streets and emergency routes and on the odd side of residential neighborhood streets.

“The snow is frozen. It’s hard. It’s not easy to move,” public works chief Jeff Pescosolido said at a Wednesday morning brief inside the city’s emergency operations center (EOC) in the basement of the 200 Orange St. municipal building. “We’re going to recover from this. We have some work to do.”

Officials were keeping in touch with alders to update a list of clogged neighborhood streets.

Crews tagged and towed 140 cars overnight, largely downtown, on top of the 93 tagged and towed on largely narrow residential streets the night before, reported transit chief Doug Hausladen.

Two hundred eighty-three people made use of around-the-clock hours at homeless shelters and warming centers.

At noon Wednesday, Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn started receiving calls about the city towing cars from Lincoln-Bassett School’s parking lot. Residents were allowed to park at school lots until then to stay off the street. But then the city ordered people to move their cars in order to clear the lots for the reopening of school Thursday morning.

Because of the confusion that ensued, the city agreed not to charge people the $177 for the tickets and towing.
Schools operations chief Will Clark said his crews helped people dig out their cars when the noon deadline arrived. Transit chief Doug Hausladen said that nine cars ended up being towed as of 5 p.m. After an outcry from alders, the city made the call to waive the fees.

The city communicated with citizens about the need to move cars from the school lots through the “Everbridge” system, through which people sign up to receive text messages and phone calls about emergency information. City emergency management chief Rick Fontana said Wednesday’s confusion demonstrated the need for more people to sign up. Still, he said, the city now has over 32,000 people on the system getting the information.

Next time around the city should continue finding ways to communicate better about evolving rules during storms, Mayor Toni Harp said at a 4 p.m. storm briefing at the Emergency Operations Center at 200 Orange St. She recommended using sound trucks in some neighborhoods to reinforce messages going out through Everbridge and through alders’ constituent email networks.

Following are earlier versions of the Independent’s ongoing storm coverage:

Now Comes The Cleanup

With the brunt of a March snowstorm behind them, New Haven officials lifted a travel ban but kept a parking ban in place to ease the work ahead of clearing city streets.

New Haven was relatively lucky: A late westward shift in the storm and a lift in temperatures above freezing kept snowfall to about 10 inches in the city Tuesday, half of what some other communities received.

By mid-day snow turned to rain and sleet. That made the snow heavier to push and portended icy conditions once the temperature falls below freezing Tuesday night.

The travel ban, both in the city and statewide, was officially lifted at 5 p.m. City Hall is scheduled to reopen to the public Wednesday morning.

“We’re still asking people to stay off the roads” if possible, city emergency services chief Rick Fontana said.

And to keep their cars parked off the road, as well. The city parking ban remains in effect indefinitely to give city crews room to clear the snow. Parking is prohibited on both sides of all downtown streets and emergency routes. In residential neighborhoods, parking is prohibited on the odd side of the street. Public school parking lots and city garages remain open and available to parkers. Mayor Toni Harp has also called on people to make room in their driveways for neighbors who don’t have them. Car owners defying the ban risk having their vehicles tagged and towed overnight, at a cost of $177; the city tagged and towed 93 cars late Monday night into early Tuesday morning.

The city sent extra plows to Westville Tuesday after a public works truck broke down on McKinley Avenue. The public works department has over 60 trucks on the road tackling the snow.

The smaller-than-expected snowfall means less snow to plow — but all that rain mixed in makes part of the job harder, according to public works chief Jeff Pescosolido.

“You’ve got the extra weight that we’re up against,” he said. The larger trucks have no problem pushing that kind of snow.” Smaller trucks, on the other hand, have more difficulty on narrower side streets.

Mid-day Tuesday, the snow caused a brief problem for Goffe Street fire station’s Engine 6 at the scene of a medical call on Catherine Way in West Rock: The truck temporarily got stuck, causing a real wheel to spin — and two links from a chain around the tire to break. The crew made it back to the station, where Firefighter Kevin Seidlarz (pictured) repaired the chain just in time ...

... to respond to a call of a woman fainting at Dux Market at Chapel and Kensington streets. The crew found the woman — a familiar face from previous calls — standing outside the store, seemingly disoriented.

“Please help me!” she implored the firefighters.

“I got you! I got you!” Lt. Kendall Richardson reassured her. “We’re going to bring you to the hospital.”

An ambulance arrived. After helping the woman inside, the crew returned to Engine 6 to head back to the station.

Along the way they found a driver stuck in a Nissan in heavy snow piled at the intersection of Elm and Orchard streets. The firefighters hopped out, pushed her through, then returned to the truck. With drivers returning to the streets in greater numbers after 5 p.m. — and then with streets freezing overnight — the firefighters will likely be called to help many more drivers.

Following are earlier versions of this story:

Blizzard Shifts Course; 93 Tagged & Towed

Paul Bass PhotosNew Haven’s storm clean-up crew caught two breaks Tuesday. New Haveners overwhelmingly heeded a call to keep themselves and their cars off the street. And Mother Nature may have spared the city much of the expected snowfall by turning up the heat and shifting the winds.

The city looked like a ghost town as the expected blizzard kicked into gear around 9 a.m., with high winds and heavy snow. The city had declared a travel ban along with banned parking on any downtown street or emergency route and on the odd sides of residential streets.

“People are listening,” reported city transit chief Doug Hausladen.

Overnight his crew tagged and towed 93 cars parked in defiance of the ban, many of them on narrow East Rock and Fair Haven and Hill streets that proved difficult to plow in the last storm, Hausladen said. Overall, he and city Building Official Jim Turcio saw “record compliance” with the ban during a morning tour of the city. Grand Avenue, for instance, was clear for the plows all the way through.

“Essential” workers like psychiatrist Robert Beech still needed to get to the job. Beech pulled out cross-country skis to commute from Westville down Edgewood Avenue to Connecticut Mental Health Center.

“I tried it in the last snowstorm, but my boots fell apart,” he said while en route. This time he was prepared with sturdy boots.

Inside the Emergency Operations Center in the basement of the 200 Orange St. municipal office building, focused work mixed with a palpable sense of relief at the change in weather conditions.

The storm moved westward from its original path, and temperatures now appear to be headed above freezing for the bulk of the day instead of remaining in the 20s.

That means snow will turn to rain for much of the afternoon, with accumulations more like eight to ten than 12-18 inches, said emergency management chief Rick Fontana. And winds are now expected to be around 20 miles per hour at the storm’s peak, with gusts maybe hitting 40, but not the originally forecast 30-plus winds with 60 mile-per-hour gusts.

So public works crews will have less snow to clear, although the heavier snow (mixed with rain) and then overnight ice may threaten more power outages, he predicted. And people will need to beware black ice once the temperatures sink below freezing at nightfall.

Weather conditions can continue to change and confound forecasts, Fontana noted, so the city is continuing with its full plan for the blizzard.

Sgt. David Guliuzza, a police EOC liaison, credited the parking ban’s success to officials’ stepped-up efforts to inform people —  as well as to the experience of car owners who flooded the police department with complaints during the last storm after learning they needed to pay $177 to retrieve their towed cars.

Officials were still gearing up for emergency work during what could still be blizzard-like conditions through the night, and freezing cold and treacherous road conditions overnight into Wednesday.

An earlier version of this article follows:

Travel & Parking Bans Declared For Blizzard

Paul Bass PhotosMayor Toni Harp called on New Haveners to pitch in as she declared a citywide travel ban and parking ban to prepare for a projected 12-18 inches of snow and 30-35 mile-per-hour winds.

The snow is expected to begin falling at 4 a.m. Tuesday and pick up to a pace of three to four inches per hour around 9 a.m., city emergency operations chief Rick Fontana said at a pre-storm meeting held at the Emergency Operations Center in the basement of the 200 Orange St. municipal office building. He said wind gusts could reach as high as 60 miles per hour, creating “crippling” conditions for the city, before the storm calms down in the evening.

So the city has taken the unusual step of declaring a travel ban beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday. That means other than emergency workers, people are supposed to stay home. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy subsequently issued a statewide travel ban.

And New Haveners need to remove cars from the streets. A parking ban takes effect at midnight. It covers both sides of the street downtown and along emergency routes. In neighborhoods, it covers the odd side of residential streets. That means you can park legally only on the even side of the street there. The city plans to begin tagging and towing cars overnight if they remain parked in defiance of the ban.

People can move their cars to public school parking lots beginning late Monday afternoon. They can also park in any city garages for $3 beginning 6 p.m. pending the close of the storm.

Mayor Harp appealed to people to share their driveways with neighbors who have no other spots for their cars. While city crews will work around the clock, they alone can’t do the whole job of ensuring that narrow streets get plowed and emergency lanes remain open along New Haven’s 321 miles of roads, she said. She also asked alders to go door-to-door Monday on narrow streets to remind people of the ban. City workers plan to drive on some streets with bullhorns to reinforce the message.

“We have got to be neighbors and work together so we can all be safe,” Harp said.

In the last major storm, the public works crews reported high overall compliance with the parking ban. But they were unable to clear some narrow streets in the Hill, East Rock, Fair Haven, and Dixwell because of illegally parked cars.

Harp said she contacted Yale in advance of this storm to help get out the word about the ban to its community this time, especially in East Rock, where university-affiliated car owners were apparently responsible for some of the unpassable narrow streets.

Maria Bouffard, Yale’s director of emergency management, reported that the university is advising community members to sign up with the city’s emergency-notification system. It has also made its Pierson-Sage Garage on Whitney Avenue available to people in order to get their cars off the streets. She noted that Yale has spring break this week. So most undergraduates have left town, along with many graduate students.

Tweed-New Haven Airport has canceled flights for Tuesday. Warming centers will open at Bethel AME Church on Goffe Street at 10 p.m. Tuesday as well as at a second new location, Trinity Church at 630 State St.

The public libraries will be closed on Tuesday, as will the public schools.

The public works department received a delivery of 500 tons of salt to begin applying to streets Tuesday morning, according to Director Jeff Pescosolido. His crews have already started applying a brine solution to roads in advance of the storm.

Trash collectors — who double as snow plowers — will begin the Tuesday pick-up early, at 11 p.m. Monday, to be available for Tuesday road-clearing duty.

Meanwhile, city homeless outreach workers and cops fanned out to locations in town where people sleep outside, urging people to come to shelters or warming centers.

“We don’t want this to be a deadly storm,” Fontana said. “But we know it can be.”


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posted by: toots133 on March 13, 2017  3:30pm

What about the Annex area, we are always forgotten!  We have just as many residents that don’t comply with the parking ban, and we don’t get our street cleared as they should be.  Also, why if there is a ban and you CAN park on the even side, the plows snow us in?  Doesn’t it make sense to face the plow towards the odd side?  The city really should start enforcing the ban in every neighborhood, but I can bet that come Wednesday when the snow has stopped the cars that didn’t adhere to the ban will walk out of their homes and into their cars and drive away while us on the even side shovel out for days!

posted by: jim1 on March 13, 2017  4:03pm

This time.  Like last 3 times, move your car!

posted by: robn on March 13, 2017  4:35pm

The Emergency Operations Center needs lower, more dramatic lighting.
Also more big screens on the wall.
Like this…


posted by: toots133 on March 13, 2017  4:55pm

I do, it’s others on our street that don’t and we pay the price, enforce the ban!

posted by: toots133 on March 13, 2017  5:02pm

Please don’t yell, jim1,  you don’t even know me.  I do move every time, it’s the neighbors on the odd side that don’t and we pay the price for doing so by shoveling the street in order to get out. The city needs to enforce in all neighborhoods!!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 13, 2017  9:43pm

Do like other states.No parking on either side of the street.

posted by: Noteworthy on March 13, 2017  9:53pm

i promise you those who live on Edgewood Avenue from Westville through Dwight neighborhood will be stupid again and keep parking on the street. And a lot of them have driveways.

posted by: Statestreeter on March 13, 2017  10:15pm

PAUL can you please ask Mayor Harp to point to the section of the city charter or ordinance that allows her to issue a travel ban.  She does have the right to issue a parking ban but I have found nothing that allows her to issue a travel ban.  Could you please ask her where she thinks she gets this power?  I’ll expect you could do this at your next interview.

[Paul: Mayor spokesman Laurence Grotheer responded: “According to the city’s Office of Corporation Counsel, ‘the Mayor’s powers are derived from Chap. 28 of the General Statutes especially Sec. 28-8a.’”]

posted by: toots133 on March 13, 2017  10:24pm

Some cars on the odd side are parked on their lawns and these people parked on the street blocking them in.  It’s a joke that nothing gets done. If ban starts at 12 start tagging and towing then before the snow starts.

posted by: alphabravocharlie on March 13, 2017  10:28pm

This is a joke they don’t even clear the main arteries. Fiorello LaGuardia lives!

posted by: jim1 on March 14, 2017  6:27am

toots 133 my comment was not to you.  it was for the mayor. who did not enforce the ban. the last 3 times..

posted by: toots133 on March 14, 2017  8:09am

Then my apologies jim1 for misunderstanding your comment, stay safe today.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 14, 2017  11:39am

Transit chief Doug Hausladen said his crews will begin tagging and towing cars on narrow streets late Monday night to free them up for plows.

Will take back New haven Doug Hausladen begin tagging and towing bikes that are chain to poles?

posted by: jim1 on March 14, 2017  12:13pm

Cars parked on both sides of street in Wooster Sq. I MOVED MY CAR!!  no towing again!!!!!!!!!! Mayor why can’t you do like you say and tow….......

posted by: T-ski1417 on March 14, 2017  1:31pm

It’s my understanding that the mayor can issue a mayoral proclamation and issue a travel and or parking ban. No different than when they issue parking ban for parades, however I find it doesn’t make sense since you still allow parking on the opposite side of the street. There should be no parking allowed so the plows, if they decide to show up, clear the whole street.

Alternative side parking is done to clear one side then move to the other side to clear the opposite.

I live on a street where there are vehicles that are never moved and it really messes with the clearing of the streets.

posted by: Nathan on March 14, 2017  2:47pm

> “People are listening,” reported city transit chief Doug Hausladen.

Maybe listening, but a quick look at Elm Street after there it narrows at Norton and continuing westward shows zero compliance with the odd side parking ban, which means another plowing disaster for this area, as usual.  There will be one narrow lane plowed and huge icebergs/islands on either side.

posted by: Statestreeter on March 14, 2017  4:48pm

Where do you get your understanding from?  Unless you read it in the charter or ordinances it doesn’t exist.  And it doesn’t. Harp can issue a parking ban.  She has no authority to issue a travel ban. But if you could show me where this power comes from under a valid legal document I would appreciate it.

posted by: T-ski1417 on March 14, 2017  6:14pm


Then it doesn’t exist, feel free to travel in this weather to your hearts content.

posted by: Peter99 on March 15, 2017  5:23am

Looks like the fire department is out helping people. Thanks NHFD.

posted by: Noteworthy on March 15, 2017  8:08am

With all due respect - those who refuse to move their cars or park correctly are just part of the problem. The rest of it is the quality of clearing the streets and sidewalks. In the last snow, despite a downtown parking ban, wide open areas to plow, the streets were a mess for days, the parking meters hard to get to and the sidewalks, parking spaces were not cleared sufficiently to allow proper parking. I will be surprised when going to work today, that this situation is any better. We should have excellent clearing, not mediocre. All we get is mediocre.

posted by: Nathan on March 15, 2017  8:21am

Follow-up: city workers and private operators did indeed tag and tow away vehicles on Elm Street last night.  The workers were generously allowing anyone that saw the action to dig out their vehicles, even helping at least one guy desperately hacking away at the compacted snow and ice that trapped his car.  I’m pleasantly surprised and grateful for the good work; now at least that part of the street will be much safer to use for driving and parking.

posted by: robn on March 15, 2017  9:00am

I was going to give props today for a decent street clean up but then I realized that the cars of every street parker in my neighborhood are entombed in 4’ of solid ice. Since we’re doing even-side parking, why arent the plows pairing up and plowing everything to the odd side?

posted by: jim1 on March 15, 2017  11:34am

Look at all the money the city could make but won’t.

St. John ,Greene, Wooster Place,

posted by: Noteworthy on March 15, 2017  11:37am

Told You So Notes:

1. Downtown is a mess. Orange Street, Elm - was told Chapel is as well.

2. Dwight Neighborhood - either these people don’t read the news, don’t pay attention to anything but cartoons or are just too lazy to move their vehicles. Their streets, including Edgewood are a mess. This is ironic since this neighborhood always stands in the way of development and jobs - but can’t even get out of the way to clean their own streets.

3. And shout outs to Westville’s Edgewood Avenue - you did as expected. You at least didn’t park on the Odd side of the street but despite having long driveways - you still parked on the street. One has to wonder if you too are cartoon only viewers. Amazing.

posted by: lbj77 on March 15, 2017  12:00pm

I live over in Newhallville.. Lilac Street, still has not been plowed. Why institute a parking ban if your not going to enforce it; or just enforce it in areas you deem worthy. They post that they towed 93 cars.. wow… 93 Cars.. What is that in comparison to the total number of cars “IN” New Haven?! I could have found them 93 cars in Newhallville alone to tow who didn’t bother to listen to the parking ban. So our streets don’t get plowed; again, and we will hear how aggressive they were with this parking ban and that’s why “only” 93 cars were towed. I know how difficult it must be to plow streets that don’t comply; but it’s funny how during street sweeping; a patrol car shows up with 6-8 tow-trucks and they begin their work… Ticketing and towing.. Do that once the ban is initiated and i bet that will get everyone’s attention!!! 
I am just going to venture a guess that our local Alders all had their streets done….. Mayor Harp… Yup!!!

posted by: westville man on March 15, 2017  12:22pm

i agree with Noteworthy.  Scratching my head as well.  We have folks here in Westville who OWN their homes, park on the wrong side of the street, NEXT to their empty driveway. I just don’t get it.

Note to DPW-  I wont shovel snow into the streets as soon as you stop plowing snow from the streets onto my sidewalk.  Yeah, I know, you gotta go 35mph to push the snow.  That way you can block in the corner and cause the snow to fly over the 3’ high. 5’ wide easement area onto my walkway after it’s been shoveled.

posted by: Peter99 on March 15, 2017  12:44pm

Why did the city not tag and tow on Wooster Street? I guess it is not politically in their interest. Why did the Newhall area get a pass on towing? The city needs to be broken into sectors, and towing taskforces need to start removing cars by a time certain which will allow the removal of ALL vehicles violating the snow ban. Streets that have viable alternatives for parking should have those areas designated to the residents. The streets need to be clear of all parked vehicles so the job of snow removal can be accomplished. Do this a few times and people will realize that the city is serious and act accordingly. Folks are not stupid. They will figure out real quick how to avoid a towing blitz that will cost them money. The city needs a plan, that plan needs to be followed and people will respond. Talk without action is meaningless.

posted by: lbj77 on March 15, 2017  1:06pm

Peter99… I Agree 100%.... But who are we talking to and who is going to take this pro-active pursuit of fixing things… Oh Yeah… That’s supposed to be our Alders….. How did they make out this storm?
Talk is cheap… But that is our only avenue to vent our frustration. I did what the Cities Powers that be asked me to.. But the others who do not fear repercussions do what they want; and get away with it. They weren’t ticketed or towed… Left to be the ones who make plowing our streets impossible.
So we will see at the next storm, when it comes, that it will be status quo; the City will talk about how they only tagged / towed “so many cars” and want you to believe that its some kind of success. When the numbers are hollow and empty and only signify that the “Good Parts” of Town where taken care of.

posted by: concerned_neighbor on March 17, 2017  9:46am

I hope that DPW and any other applicable department takes a quick drive around the central business district and tickets every property owner that has still not cleaned the sidewalk. It is disappointing that many property owners do not heed New Haven ordinances and clear the sidewalk adjacent to their property.

While LCI is a busy agency, they need to take a drive around town and do the same for those absentee landlords to ensure snow is removed, especially with another snow storm coming this weekend.

posted by: mcg2000 on March 18, 2017  9:36pm

I encountered many corners in the Beaver Hill neighborhood and along Elm Street and Orchard Street that were impassable due to piles of snow. I used my hands and feet to navigate some of them and there’s no way someone in a wheelchair, using a cane or walker or pushing a stroller could navigate those corners. In fact, during my travels, I saw someone in wheelchair riding in the street.
It is frustrating to report to SeeClickFix areas that need shoveling and to only get a form reply from DPW with no further follow up. DPW and LCI are given addresses of problem areas and do they follow up? Also, there are certain businesses that are repeat offenders when it comes to not shoveling their sidewalks. If I know who they are, where is DPW and LCI to visit these businesses to get them to comply with the law or ticket them if they won’t?

posted by: William Kurtz on March 20, 2017  12:26pm

I agree with concerned_neighbor and mcg2000. This is not just a problem in New Haven, though, but in the surrounding towns as well. Until recently I lived in West Haven and now in Hamden, and the state of sidewalks, crosswalk cutouts, and corner curb cuts in commercial areas is frequently appalling.

As mentioned, a person with impaired mobility or a parent with small children or a stroller would find it impossible to get around safely.

I do not know what an effective response would be. Name and shame? The cities don’t seem concerned. Is there a state agency that could intervene? Does the Americans with Disabilities Act provide for lawsuits?

posted by: mcg2000 on March 20, 2017  1:26pm

William Kurtz,I too have encountered problems with snow removal such as uncleared pedestrian crosswalks and uncleared bus stops and shelters in neighboring towns such as Hamden, Orange, and Milford. A local Hamden newspaper covered the issue of uncleared bus stops a few years ago. Part of the issue is the confusion regarding who is responsible for the bus stops and shelters and an apparent lack of interest by the people in power to sort it out. CT Transit says it’s the town’s responsibility. But what about the Boston Post Road, a state road? I chalk up the neighboring town’s snow cleaning issues to being mostly car owning communities where most people get around by car and forgetting about those who walk or take the bus.But New Haven likes to promote alternatives to driving such as walking, cycling, and public transportation and many residents don’t own cars. Given New Haven’s awareness of and promotion of alternative transportion (think outside the car), you would expect sidewalks, crosswalks, bus shelters and stops to be promptly cleared after a snowstorm.