Nature delivers a double helping of snow

  • Maria Collura packs a snowball as her daughter Julia Collura, 7, gets pelted by friend, Casey Fahey while they have a snowball fight after making a snowman at Beacon Field on Monday.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • David McMahon and his brother, Jim McMahon shovel out a fire hydrant on Shattuck Street in Greenfield after about a foot of snow blanketed the region. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Mason McMahon, 10, shovels snow on Shattuck Street in Greenfield after about a foot of snow blanketed the region.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Department of Public Works trucks take a break between snowstorms on Monday in Greenfield.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Auggie the puppy wants to be your friend at Beacon Field on Monday with owner Faith Dore.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Auggie the puppy wants to be your friend at Beacon Field on Monday with owner Faith Dore.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 12/2/2019 4:06:10 PM

By MAX MARCUS, MELINA BOURDEAU, MAUREEN O’REILLY, ZACK DeLUCA, DOMENIC POLI

FRANKLIN COUNTY — The first snow of the season came in two bursts. By Monday morning, Greenfield had 9 inches, and towns in the western hills had as much as 16. Another 4 to 8 inches was expected by Tuesday morning.

This weather came from two storms approaching from different directions and converging on Massachusetts at the same time, said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Norton.

The first was Sunday night’s storm, which came from the Midwest. It had already prompted blizzard warnings in the Dakotas, Wyoming and Minnesota, Buttrick said.

Meanwhile a secondary storm was developing off the New Jersey coast and heading for New England, Buttrick said. By Monday afternoon the first storm had mostly finished, but would be kickstarted when the secondary one met it around 2 p.m.

All told, the snow in Western Massachusetts was expected to be done by 8 a.m. Tuesday.

As a result of the storm, schools, courts and government offices were closed for the day.

The storm was moving west to east, so the eastern part of the state would continue to get snow into early Tuesday afternoon, Buttrick said. People traveling eastward today should expect difficult conditions even after snow has ended in Franklin County.

For other travelers, Buttrick said, roads will likely be affected into Tuesday. Trains and flights may be delayed.

Because of the way Massachusetts juts into the ocean, these kinds of conditions, involving more than one storm, happen somewhat regularly, Buttrick said.

“It’s not like, ‘This never happened before,’” Buttrick said. “It’s not unusual.”

Greenfield 

The city landed a spot on CBS News on Monday morning when corresponded Don Dahler relayed information about the snowstorm hitting Massachusetts. 

“Greenfield is a really cute town,” Dahler said, bending down to pick up snow on the City Common. “But this stuff is dangerous.”

By Monday, Greenfield’s Department of Public Works Director Marlo Warner and 26 of the 32 personnel working the storm were taking a moment to refuel before the “second storm” came overnight into Tuesday.

Warner said every storm is different and to prepare, a storm plan was put into place the Wednesday before Thanksgiving – involving communication with the Greenfield Public School Superintendent Jordanna Harper and Mayor William Martin’s office.

Then the roads were pretreated around 12 p.m. Sunday. 

“We had a schedule in place for the storm, and then it started to snow at two inches an hour and we called everyone in,” Warner said. “We had eight trucks out doing the primary routes. It came on pretty quickly.”

Warner said there were no major breakdowns, but a couple of repairs were needed, which took about an hour.

“The crew did an outstanding job,” Warner said. “Especially considering this was the first storm of the year, everything went well.”

This weekend, as storm forecasts firmed up, Aubuchon Hardware had a run on the store that is not unusual under these circumstances, manager Tim Seymour said.

“It was, as best as I can describe, a zoo in here,” Seymour said.

In the days before a snowstorm, the store typically does two or three times as much business as on a normal day, Seymour said. This time, business was up Saturday afternoon, all day Sunday, and even Monday morning. The popular items were shovels, snowscrapers, snowblowers and snowmelt products. Seymour noted that all are still in stock and selling well.

“We don’t sell milk or bread, but just about everything else,” he said.

Orange

In Orange, all roads had been cleared and were passable by noon Monday. But Police Chief James Sullivan reminded locals to be careful.

“All the roads are dangerous right now,” Sullivan said. “Everybody has to take it easy and go slow.”

The Highway Department had been working since Sunday evening, and were getting ready to start again Monday evening, Sullivan said.

Highway Superintendent Colin Killay was not available to talk early Monday afternoon; he and other department workers were taking advantage of the lull in the weather to get a few hours of sleep before the evening’s work, Sullivan said.

Montague

Montague Department of Public Works Superintendent Thomas Bergeron said employees were working from 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening into mid-morning Monday.

“To prepare for the storm, we made sure the trucks were running and sanders had enough product to get through the storm,” Bergeron said. “If we get more snow, we’ll have to do more plowing.”

The “product” is a mixture of road salt and sand that the Department of Public Works uses until about January or February when treated salt is used on the roads. 

“The snow moves easily when it’s plowed, but the stuff under it that’s not pretreated gets slippery fast,” Bergeron said Monday morning. “Now, it’s getting sloppy and slushy as it gets warmer throughout the day and the product starts working.”

All of the work removing snow in the town was done by 17 of the 20 the department’s workers, according to Bergeron. Two had limited experience plowing, “but they fared well,” Bergeron said.

He said there were no major breakdowns or accidents as of Monday morning.

Bergeron also wanted to remind Montague residents to adhere to the winter parking ban which is in effect on all roads in town from Dec. 1 through April 1. During this period, no parking is allowed on town streets between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Overnight parking is allowed on municipal lots without charge.

“That time is really valuable for the DPW to get in and clean the roads,” Bergeron said.

West County 

“It’s been pretty brutal up here. Luckily, we haven’t lost power or anything that I know of,” said Paul McLatchy III, the administrative assistant for the town of Rowe.

“I haven’t taken a measure of it yet, but it was just about up to my knees this morning,” he said, adding that it took him an hour and a half to clear his driveway and drive a mile to work.

McLatchy said he was the only employee who made it to work, and, by mid-morning Monday, he’s been alone in Town Hall.

“I’ve been here three hours and not one person has come (by),” McLatchy said. “As far as I know, everybody is pretty much staying in.”

The snow has impacted businesses throughout West County.

“It has been super slow today,” said Alexandra Brown, an employee at Mocha Maya’s coffee shop in Shelburne Falls.

“It’s a lot of heavy snow,” Brown said. “If we get just a few inches, people are usually out . . . . Today is unusually slow and I would guess it’s the amount. A lot of people have a lot of snow to clear,” Brown said, adding that by mid-morning she had seen about a quarter of the usual number of customers.

In Charlemont, the 14 inches of loose powder Berkshire East received has been good news for skiers.

“There’re tons of families out here today. Our conditions are great,” said Gabe Provost-Henry, director of activities.

“It’s the best Cyber Monday gift we could have gotten,” he said.

North County

North County Highway Departments were hard at work from Sunday evening through Monday, during the first major snowfall of the season.

In Northfield, five members of the local Highway Department, and one hired truck from Johnson Asphalt Paving, had been clearing the roads and required areas in Northfield since approximately 4 p.m. Sunday, said Highway Superintendent Tom Walker.

A trailer truck got stuck on Gulf Road around 8:30 p.m. Sunday evening. The department was able to tow the truck out of the way of traffic.

“Once he was out of the way, everything else went fairly smooth,” Walker said.

According to Walker, Northfield was covered in 14 inches of snow by midday Monday.

“It looks like it's starting again right now,” he said during his lunch break Monday.

The Northfield department had just replaced worn out blades on its plows ahead of winter, and some residents and business owners took notice of the clean streets.

“I got a couple texts from people this morning, saying they were happy,” Walker said.

Kim Farmer, owner of Mim’s Market on Main Street in Northfield, said the roads were “clear as a bell” Monday morning.

“They’re doing a great job, as usual,” she said.

South County

Customers proved they’re regulars at Baker’s Country Store at 101 River St. in Conway, where owner Helen Baker said the typical lunch crowd had convened by 1:10 p.m., though business was slower than usual in the morning. She said she and husband Bob Baker, who is also the Conway fire chief, own a truck and plow they use to make the building accessible.

Helen Baker said she stocks shovels, ice scrapers, ice melt and other supplies her customers purchased in preparation Sunday.

Keith Bardwell, who has been the Whately highway superintendent since 1986, said the roughly 8 inches of snow that fell weren’t a cakewalk, but he has seen far worse in his career. He said frigid temperatures can make work more difficult because they reduce the effectiveness of chemicals used to treat the roads, and high winds often blow snow back onto roadways after they have been cleared.

However, he said, temperatures were manageable Monday and there was no wind.

“That hasn’t been a problem at all,” he said around 1:25 p.m. Monday. “It’s been pretty straightforward.”

He said he was expecting another 4 to 6 inches Monday night.

Ben Bosco, an employee at Primo Pizzeria Deerfield, said business “hasn’t changed too much” as a result of the storm, though the pace was slower Monday morning. He said there was a possibility the pizza joint would close early Monday evening due to more snow, but he was not sure.

He said he delivered food orders Sunday night and ran off the roadway a few times, especially on River Road.

“Still got to the destination,” he said, adding that most people were considerate.

Bosco also said there was an uptick in business Sunday morning, as people were “getting ready to hunker down.”




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