TRUMBULL, Conn. — Connecticut towns approach the annual winter-weather crap-shoot with optimism and preparation.
“It’s a coin flip,” Trumbull Department of Public Work John Marsilio said recently. “The mantra is, you hope for the best and you prepare for the worst.”
A number of towns, Trumbull among them, have spent the year gathering resources in anticipation of what could be several months of snowy, icy weather. That means stockpiles of salt— and in some cases, sand.
“It’s something that never stops,” Marsilio said. “We begin to prepare for snow season as soon as the old season ends. … We’re ahead of the curve on that.”
Trumbull has gathering 4,000 tons of sand and 2,000 tons of salt to go along with year-round plow maintenance to cover the town’s 26 snow-removal routes, he said.
This winter has an equal chance of being either colder and snowier than normal or warmer and drier, according to a seasonal outlook released in October by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
But with La Nina— the cooling of the equatorial pacific in irregular intervals that is associated with widespread climate change —expected to play a role, conditions in the northern U.S. could be colder than last winter.
“We’re ready,” Stratford Department of Public Works Director Maurice McCarthy. “Our hoppers are re-full of salt, so we’re good for a few storms before we run out.”
Stratford has a fleet of nearly 40 trucks, McCarthy said. Aside from plowing accumulations on the road, they have to clean up snow pushed onto the street from residents shoveling or blowing their driveways clean.
It is a “huge problem,” and offenders this year can expect a visit from police, McCarthy said.
In nearby Milford, as in many places, “we use zero sand” to make winter roads safer, Public Works Director Christopher Saley said. “It’s 100 percent salt.”
Sand gets contaminated from sitting on roads for extended periods, requiring special, environmentally sensitive cleanup measures.
“We decided a few years back to use mostly salt because sand is expensive to clean up when spring arrives,” Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti said.
But like Trumbull, Ansonia uses both road treatments. In Ansonia, where most streets get salt to combat the ice, some of the congested streets in the city’s lower wards get a mixture of two-thirds salt and one-third sand, Cassetti said.
With that mix, Ansonia’s cost is about $20,000 per winter storm— more if the storm comes on a weekend or holiday.
Over half a million dollars was put into Trumbull’s budget for equipment and a special overtime stash for staff work during a storm.
“We spend only what we have to spend,” Marsilio he said.
Unlike many municipalities that use several departments— Trumbull uses its Highway, Park, and Building Maintenance resources —when it comes to storm cleanup, Easton generally uses only its Highway Department.
“We have to equalize the overtime as best we can,” Easton Public Work Director Ed Nagy said. “But highway guys get the first dibs.”
Easton has nine large trucks for big routes, three small trucks, and two pickups.
In comparison to some of the other communities, that’s not much, but Nagy said, “We’re ready.”
Lingering snow accumulations are a major concern for all area towns and cities. When snow gets too deep, only bucket loaders and other specialized gear can clear the streets. But there are only so many bucket loaders— privately owned or municipal —in the state.
Milford bought a four-wheel-drive snow remover from from Trackless Vehicles, which specializes in equipment for municipalities, to deal with heavy accumulations.
Other communities have spent time retooling existing equipment to get ready for heavy snow removal.
Milford’s new vehicle is to be fitted with a snow thrower that can handle a 36-inch blanket of snow, Saley said.
“You have to be innovative when it comes to clearing streets, and we’ve come a long way since the 1960s and 70s,” he said.
Information from: Connecticut Post, http://www.connpost.com