CT braces for first major snowstorm of year

January 18, 2019 GMT

The state’s first major winter storm of the year is expected this weekend with snow, ice, sleet and freezing rain in the forecast.

A winter storm watch is in effect for the northern half of Connecticut from 4 p.m. Saturday to 7 p.m. Sunday. Some areas are expected to get double-digit snowfall totals. In southern Connecticut, in towns and cities along the coast of Long Island Sound, about 3-6 inches are expected.

Nearly 40 inches of snowfall is projected in parts of northern New England, with close to 30 inches expected to fall on parts of central and northern New York state.

The state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection officials say they are keeping a close eye on the storm.

“We continue to be in regular contact with the National Weather Service on the track of the storm and the anticipated impacts. We will be monitoring conditions statewide and are prepared to coordinate any assistance that may be needed,” said Scott DeVico, a spokesman for DESPP.

In November, drivers were caught off guard when a snowstorm struck right at the beginning of evening rush hour. Slippery roads, delays and slow-downs snarled highways and local roads resulting in 1,341 snow-related calls for service around the state, 230 of which were accidents, including one fatal on Interstate 95 in Milford.

In preparation, the state Department of Transportation has begun “strategically” pretreating more than 300 miles of “problem areas” across nearly 11,000 miles of state-run roadways, according to spokesman Kevin Nursick.

“It’s not feasible for us to target all state roads, so when we strategically pretreat, which means we hit trouble spots — bridges, which quickly freeze over, hills, valleys, the known trouble spots,” Nursick said.

The salt-brine solution, which they started applying as early as Wednesday, keeps snow from adhering to roads and makes it easier to plow.

With nearly 50 satellite offices around the state and a fleet of more than 800 plows, the DOT should be in a place to adequately deal with the snowfall, Nursick said.

The storm also poses the risk of flash freezing late Sunday into Monday with overnight arctic blasts of winds. Temperatures are expected to plummet into the teens and 20s late Sunday, “presenting the potential for a flash freeze of wet or slushy surfaces.”

The black ice could make for hazardous travel conditions Sunday night into Monday morning. It will get so cold that prolonged exposure could result in hypothermia and frostbite, the NWS said.

NWS is also warning that coastal flooding could be possible along waterfront roads thanks to a mixture of heavy rains and snows and high tide Sunday morning.

Gov. Ned Lamont addressed the incoming storm Thursday evening, asking residents to take the storm into consideration while making plans this weekend.

“Once this storm begins, travel is going to be rough,” Lamont said. “We are urging everyone in Connecticut to make plans to stay in place Saturday night and into Sunday morning, and only travel if absolutely necessary.”

Connecticut is expected to initiate “Severe Cold Weather Protocol,” which directs the state to coordinate with local shelters to ensure the state’s most vulnerable populations are protected from the cold.

Once the protocol is activated, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection activates its WebEOC communications network, an internet-based system that enables local, regional and state emergency management officials and first responders to share up-to-date information about a variety of situations and conditions. Under the protocol, transportation is provided to people seeking shelter.

“If you or someone you know is in need of shelter, please call 211,” Lamont added. Shelters can also found by visiting www.211ct.org.

Eversource Energy, which was widely criticized for widespread power outages and long wait times for repairs following two large storms in the fall, is also prepping crews of line workers, tree crews and support staffers to address any possible storm-related outages.

“We are closely monitoring weather conditions and planning accordingly so we have crews in position to respond and be there for our customers when they need us,” said Mike Hayhurst, Eversource vice president of Electric System Operations, said.

Despite their preparations, Hayhurst warned residents to assemble storm kits with essential items, including pet food and medications, before the storm strikes.

“Given the extremely cold temperatures we’re expecting following the storm, it’s crucial for customers to take precautions and prepare in the event of power outages,” he said.

Local preparations

As the state prepares for the storm, local officials are doing the same.

Scott Appleby, director of emergency management and homeland security in Bridgeport, said the city’s Emergency Operations Center is keeping a close eye on the storm.

“We’re trying to get the word out to the community to refresh themselves ... on the snow emergency routes and what parking bans mean when we declare or activate a snow emergency,” Appleby said.

Bridgeport usually activates a snow emergency when more than six inches is expected, he said. But because of the ice expected, it’s possible the city will make an exception.

“In any storm, you need to stay ahead of it and be prepared,” Appleby said.

In 2013, Bridgeport officials under then-mayor Bill Finch were criticized for the way they handled a February storm that dumped nearly 30 inches. The cleanup cost the city about $1.7 million, which was only partially reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Michele DeLuca, the deputy director of emergency management in Norwalk, is warning residents to take precautions to keep safe as temperatures and wind chills drop.

“Limit your exposure to the cold temperatures by not going outside unless necessary,” DeLuca said. “Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia, by keeping warm.”

Residents are urged to keep a battery-powered flashlight, portable radio and lantern. If you are using a space heater, DeLuca said, make sure it is at least three feet away from anything that can burn.

“Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep. Do not use stoves and ovens to heat your residence,” DeLuca said.

In the event of power loss, residents are reminded to take measures to trap existing warm air and to contact the power company. DeLuca said residents should never run generators inside the house.

If the cold persists and heat isn’t restored, DeLuca said residents should call family, neighbors, or friends to see about staying with them.