West Hartford residents are preparing for what could be a record-breaking snowfall combined with high winds.
Although the forecast could certainly change, the area is already under a Blizzard Watch and town officials are asking the public to be prepared for heavy snow as well as the potential for power outages.
"We have a history of this type of snowfall. On Jan. 12, 2011, the Hartford area got 23 to 24 inches of snow. That was a record," said Director of Public Works John Phillips. He thinks we may have the possibility of touching that record, and is expecting a minimum of 15 inches.
In the past two years, West Hartford has acquired a team of high discharge plows which are capable of pushing around a lot of snow. Four trucks are now equipped with them, Phillips said. In addition, Public Works has "push boxes" that can grab a large quantity of snow and stack it to clear areas such as school parking lots.
Phillips has announced that a parking ban will go into effect at 8 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 8 and will remain in effect until further notice.
"I am requesting that the West Hartford Police Department strictly enforce the ban by towing. I'm not a towing fan, but in 2011 we got caught with cars left in the road so we will be aggressive about towing," Phillips said.
The parking ban will apply to on-street parking in West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square. Surface lots and garages will remain open, Phillips said.
Phillips is concerned about the wind that is forecast to accompany this storm, because of the increased possibility of power outages as well as the effect of drifting snow. The lack of a tree canopy at this time of year combined with the tree trimming that has been done should help, Phillips said. However, cars that are left in the road could quickly become buried in drifts, creating dangerous obstructions and closing roads entirely.
"It jeapordizes everyone when fire trucks and other emergency vehicles can't get down the street," said Phillips.
Trash and recyclables will be collected on Friday as scheduled, but Phillips asks that barrels be moved back from the edge of the road as soon as possible.
West Hartford Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management Gary Allyn has provided the following important information which residents should note as they prepare for the storm:
- Assemble a storm emergency kit, with provisions for three days. Drinking water and medications should be part of that kit.
- If you live near a fire hydrant, it should be kept clear of snow. The fire department will not be able to do it until after the storm. If someone else removes your snow, the fire department asks that you have them clear the fire hydrants as well.
- Increase the temperature in your home in advance of the storm. "In the event that you do lose power it will take that much longer to cool down," Allyn said.
- Have flashlights and fresh batteries available. Allyn discourages the use of candles and kerosene lamps, but said that glow sticks, which are available at hardware stores as well as some drug and department stores, are a good and safe alternative. Many will last for 8-12 hours, he said.
- Check to be sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order.
- Clear snow away from appliance vents. Gas and oil-powered appliances such as hot water heaters and dryers are often direct-vented to the outside, and those vents could become blocked by snow and cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home.
- Please sign-up for the West Hartford's Community Alert System.
Phillips said that Public Works plans to pre-treat the roads with "ClearLane" ice melt in order to prevent snow bond. "When we plow, the snow comes right off," Phillips said.
Once the snow starts accumulating, concentration will turn to plowing in order to keep up with accumulations. He already has close to 20 contractors on standby, and expects them to assist for a period of 15 to 20 hours beginning Friday afternoon. With most large snowfalls, contractor assistance is only required for 6 to 7 hours.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that the state will open an Emergency Operations Center at 6 a.m. Friday. West Hartford will decide later Thursday if the town will open its Emergency Operations center as well.
If the snowfall is as great as predicted, Phillips said he'd love to see the governor close the roads statewide to allow plow drivers to do their jobs most effectively.
No matter what, Phillips said he feels prepared. "I've got complete confidence in my staff. We have the resources to do this."