Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blizzard of 2013

Friday Night

I stayed home from work Friday. After the trouble I had getting home after the comparatively minor snowstorm the week before, I figured I'd be better off respecting the power of a blizzard.

By 11 p.m., the plow had come up our street (the wrong way) several times, but the snow was piling up fast. It didn't seem too bad at this point.

Friday night, 11 p.m.

Saturday Morning

So much for "not too bad" -- this is a LOT of snow!

Same view as the photo above, seven hours later,
and everything is covered in thick blanket of snow.

Looking the other direction from the porch. The neighbor's car was
last shoveled out around midnight, so it's not as badly buried.

Conditions were still pretty brutal all morning. The snow had stopped falling, but
the wind was still creating near-white out conditions every so often.

The snow in the front yard was hip deep. It was a little like wading
through water. I felt like I ought to be able to dive in and start swimming.

Hey look! It's our car!

Saturday Afternoon

Shoveling was very discouraging. There's nowhere to put the snow. Our yard is too small to hold all of it without piling it up taller than ourselves, which is not an easy thing to do.

Eventually I noticed that there was a car in the middle of the road, preventing plows from getting down our street. Or, rather, UP our street, since the plow truck was driving the wrong way.
Probably something to do with his route and the fact that there really
should not have been anyone else trying to drive in the middle of the blizzard.

By early afternoon, a decent foot path was being developed, going down the middle of the street.

Later in the day, I ventured up to Oak Street to see what a plowed street looked like. Not so good. Instead of two lanes, there was only one. You can see that there simply is too much snow and nowhere for it to go.

My back yard, with a six foot drift in the corner.

Icicles dripping slowly.

The wind made some interesting patterns in the snow.

Sunday Afternoon

By Sunday afternoon, people were starting to get cranky, worrying about how they would get to work Monday, and how much trouble they will be in with their bosses if they can't get to work. People wondered why our street hasn't been plowed, and rumors about Town Plot being completely plowed out began to spread. The prevailing opinion was that our street, and our neighborhood, had been forgotten somehow. I decided it was time to go for a walk to see what conditions elsewhere really were like.

A couple of neighbors put a huge effort into clearing out their cars, resulting in a small open area.

Most of Wood Street is still buried, except for
the well-worn foot path.

I think it's fair to say that Young Street hasn't seen a plow at all.

Wood Street on the other side of Walnut is only slightly better than
my stretch of Wood Street. If it weren't for that darn car abandoned
in the middle of the road, this is probably what my street would look like.

Walnut Street, a main artery, looking very narrow.

Rose Street

People are wondering about school this week. This is Dikeman Street and Walsh School.
No school for a few days, I think. Unless we want the kids to honestly say
they walked to school uphill both ways in the snow.

Welton Street approaching East Main Street.

Kenyon Street, off Welton Street. It reminds me of an obstacle course.

Welton Street at East Main Street. You can see the Buffalo Wild Wings "tower" in the distance. The street is slippery, especially at the intersection. The car in this photo was one of several that spun their tires and wobbled all over the road in the span of five minutes.

East Main Street, one of the busiest roads in the city, looking very slippery. If you don't have all-wheel drive and snow tires, you're better off staying at home or on foot for a few more days.

East Main Street. Hard, compacted snow = ice; plus some slush = very slippery!
Pedestrians need to walk carefully, partly so they don't fall, partly so they know
when to get out of the way of a car that's sliding toward them.

I think McDonald's is open, but getting there isn't easy.

The weather forecast is calling for rain and freezing rain tonight and tomorrow morning.
Flat roofs are in danger of collapse. Flooding is going to be really bad too.

East Main Street. All the bodegas, corner stores, etc. seem to be open.

Another reason to keep your car off the streets, if you can. The plows need room to do their jobs.

The plow drivers have been at this for 48 hours straight so far. The city called in every contractor they could, plus heavy equipment from construction companies. The plow crews won't be getting time off for days to come. They're tired and frustrated. It doesn't help that people get mad at them when they do their job. If they don't plow a street, everyone is mad at them. When they do plow a street, everyone gets mad about the snow being pushed up on the sides in front of driveways and next to cars. This is the worst snowstorm we've had since 1978; I wish people could be a little more patient and compassionate, instead of ranting and raving at the people who are doing a good job in an extremely bad situation. Thank you to everyone who is out there plowing!

This is why the side streets haven't been done yet. The main roads are still being worked on.
When there's this much snow, it takes much longer to get the job done.

Wolcott Street. Not pretty, especially when there's a car stopped at on the side of the road.
I wasn't brave enough to try walking up Wolcott Street. It's too narrow and too congested.

You can see why the Hartford Archdiocese decided that Catholics don't have to go to church today.
This is the parking lot for Sacred Heart church.

This is the guy who is trying to clear the Sacred Heart church parking lot. I think he
needs some assistance. That's a very big parking lot for one little snow blower.

Someone having fun in the snow.

Wall Street at the intersection with Walnut Avenue. Sometimes there's one and a half lanes, sometimes only one lane, sometimes it's more like half a lane.

Wall Street, heading uphill toward Oak Street. Normally a two-lane road.

Wall Street, looking at the intersection with Oak Street.
The green car is parked on the "side" of the road, waiting for
someone to come out of a house.

Impasse at the top of Wall Street. The smaller vehicle wound up driving backwards
until there was a spot to pull over, out of the way of the bigger vehicle.

The view from near the top of Wall Street, which normally has two lanes.

Determined shovelers on Oak Street. I have no idea where they're going to put all that snow.

Got a giant pile of snow? Might as well set up lawn chairs on top
and do some lounging. This is outside Caruso's store on Oak Street.

Loose dog at the top of Rose Street.

City dump trucks are busy plowing. Once again, here's a good reason to stay off the roads if you can. The plows need room to work, and many streets are too narrow for a big plow and regular cars to pass each other without damage. We're in a state of emergency. Leave the car at home.

If you do go out in a car, you need all-wheel drive to navigate safely. It's a narrow, slushy mess.

Wood Street is one of the worst, all because of the car that was abandoned in the middle of the road.
A small plow isn't powerful enough to clear this out at this point. A big plow won't fit. We're going to need heavy construction equipment to dig us out.

One bit of good news for Wood Street--the owner of the abandoned car finally returned
and moved his car out of the way, in part thanks to other people who dug it out.

Sunday Night

The top chunk of Wood Street has been partly dug out, thanks to a group of about ten men,
equipped with nothing more than shovels and a small snow blower. Awesome job guys!

Back to work after a brief food break, supplied by the owner of the corner store and one
of the guy's mother. The whole thing started when the guy in the red hoodie wanted to
shovel out his car and asked for help. They're taking turns shoveling out each other's cars.
Real teamwork, real camaraderie, real great stuff.

Monday Morning

Freezing rain is making the snow heavy and icy. Tempers are flaring among people who don't understand why the city hasn't finished plowing the streets yet. The Mayor got on the radio and announced that more than 1000 streets (out of 1304) have been plowed, with a little under 200 left to be done. My street is still buried, but numbers like that suggest we'll be dug out soon.

More shoveling, this time in the rain. Some of the same crew from last night, with a few new people pitching in. One guy was able to get a private plow to do a quick pass at the area the shovelers had dug out, helping their effort. There's been some shoveling going on behind the row houses as well. Most of the street is still buried, but at least now some of us can get out.

Monday Night

Turns out to have been a very good thing that a lane was opened up at the top of my street. Down in New Haven, my sister's apartment ran out of heating oil and the oil delivery truck wasn't able to fit down her street. She has two little kids and didn't want them shivering in the cold all night. I shoveled the snow off the top of the Subaru and headed down to New Haven.

I debated which route to take -- play it safe and take Route 8 all the way to I-95? stick to my regular choice of Route 69? I decided to chance 69. For the most part, it was fine. The road was completely shut down in Prospect. A group of us formed a caravan and followed a tow truck which knew the way around the road block. Back on 69, in Bethany, the northbound lane was still buried under snow for a brief distance. And there was incredible fog, making the drive that much more challenging.

New Haven was just as bad, if not worse, than Waterbury.

Whalley Avenue, normally four lanes, reduced to sort of two lanes, depending on where cars are parked and whether or not there's a median or center turn lane.

Thanks to the rain, a typical driveway is a mixture of slush, ice and
several inches of water. If I had taken my car, with front wheel drive
and lousy tires, I would definitely have gotten stuck and probably
would have smashed into a snowbank.

The small side street that the oil delivery truck can't drive.

The larger side street that is also problematic. This is at the intersection of Whalley Avenue.

Route 69 is the right-hand lane, the one that's half-buried in snow.

When I finally got home, three hours later, I was both happy and a little disappointed to see that my street had been plowed. Disappointed because I wasn't there to see (and photograph) our liberator. I was told that we were plowed out by a giant payloader, nearly two stories tall. Amazingly, it was just barely narrow enough to fit down our street. The whole thing was done in minutes.

Tuesday Morning

It's almost over, right? I still wouldn't try driving anywhere in Waterbury without all-wheel drive. Most of the two-way side streets are extra narrow and require at least some driving in snow. Intersections are slushy. The end of my street will not be kind to front-wheel drive: there's a swath of thick slush that will send tires spinning.

The morning after the plow. The top of the street is looking good, mostly because it was shoveled out by people who live here. With today's sun and warmth, I'm hoping the rest of the snow in the road is melted quickly.

Rose Street is a lot messier. This is a two-way road, on the public bus route. All wheel drive only!

After listening to complaints and reading comments by frustrated people on the Mayor's Facebook page and elsewhere, it seems like there are several distinct categories of complaint related to the blizzard:

"My neighborhood pays some of the highest taxes in town, so we should have been plowed out first."
"I'm an essential state employee/healthcare worker/other special category, so my street should have been plowed out first."

"Someone in my household has medical problems, so my street should have been plowed out first."

"The plow driver made things worse--now I have to shovel out my driveway/walkway again."

"The Mayor/city is responsible for all this snow and is doing a terrible job cleaning it up."

"The wealthier neighborhoods look beautiful. The city did a great job of plowing them out, and they haven't done anything in our neighborhood, so obviously the city/Mayor doesn't like us."

This storm has really pushed people to the breaking point. I haven't heard anyone blame God or Mother Nature, just other people.

You can certainly argue that this is an excellent example of how we've become dependent on government to take care of us, instead of doing things for ourselves. Most streets would have been cleared faster if residents had started shoveling and snow blowing the streets immediately, instead of waiting for the city plows to come through.

For people who are salaried workers, there's not too much stress about missing work because of the storm. For people who are hourly wage earners, who need every penny they make to just barely scrape by, and for people who have completely irrational bosses, this is a very high stress situation.

Tuesday Afternoon

Mayor O'Leary had a brilliant idea. He put out a call for teenagers age 14 and up, and adults, to help shovel out the city schools for minimum wage. The call went out this morning. Hundreds of teenagers and adults showed up at noon, shovels in hand, ready to work. This gives city workers and contractors, who have been on the job nonstop since Friday, some much-needed assistance; it gives people who need some money a chance to earn it; and it gives teenagers the opportunity to become invested in their community and to take responsibility for their schools. The teens could have stayed home watching t.v. or playing video games. They could have spent the day wandering around getting into trouble. Instead, they chose to help their community and work.

I love everything about this!

Photo taken from Mayor O'Leary's Twitter account, showing some
of the 500 people who showed up
at City Hall to shovel.

While this is going on, payloaders and plows are still working on digging out the last few streets that are buried in snow. It's been a herculean effort by everyone involved. This was an extraordinary storm, and despite the bitching and moaning from many corners, I think what will stand out is the way Waterbury banded together to get through this.