When a winter storm slammed Connecticut and the Northeast region on Feb. 8, Easton was prepared. Snow began falling at 8 a.m., schools were closed, and the community hunkered down for what would turn into the blizzard of 2013, also named winter storm Nemo.
The storm brought the heaviest snowfall to the region since 1888 and virtually shut down the state. It caused Gov. Dannel Malloy to declare a state of emergency and to enact a travel ban that remained in effect for 24 hours. President Obama approved an emergency declaration for the state at the request of Mr. Malloy and the Connecticut delegation.
At least five people in Connecticut died of storm-related conditions, and the blizzard crippled the state for days. Coastal areas, including Bridgeport, Fairfield and Milford, inland areas such as Hamden and Waterbury, and southeastern Connecticut were especially hard hit.
But Easton skated through largely unscathed, and town officials are crediting preparation and community-mindedness as the major reason. Several cars skidded off local roads or hit trees, but there were no injuries and no power outages. In fact, on Monday, Easton, Redding and Region 9 schools were in session after a two-hour delay after forecast freezing rain. It was the only district in the state to have its schools in session.
Easton Department of Public Works crews were out clearing roads all day during the Friday blizzard and were “fully prepared” to address any weather situation that arose, according to First Selectman Tom Herrmann. They kept plowing until 11:30 p.m. when the wind became too strong to continue, but they resumed at 5:30 the next morning, he said.
“All kudos go to the DPW crew with appreciation to town residents for staying off the roads Friday night and early Saturday,” Mr. Herrmann said. “I spoke with Congressman Himes yesterday, who asked what assistance we still needed to recover. I proudly told him none. Our roads were all passable by Saturday afternoon and school was in session [Monday]. He was stunned.”
Fire Chief Steve Waugh stated in an email that Mr. Herrmann forwarded to The Courier: “I thought it worthy to mention that post blizzard Easton’s town roads were in much better shape than the roads in our surrounding towns. I noted a lot of comments by residents and online to that effect also. Ed [Nagy] and his crew deserve recognition for their efforts. Job well done.”
Mr. Herrmann said, “That has been the overwhelming consensus of opinion throughout town and beyond.”
After plowing his own property on Saturday, Mr. Herrmann helped some neighbors, he said. It took a while for people to dig out because the snow was so deep that ordinary snowplows couldn’t handle it.
Mr. Herrmann was in contact with United Illuminated Co. officials, who geared up for an anticipated 32,000 storm-related outages across the area. However, the company sustained only limited damage to its electric distribution system as a result of the massive winter snowstorm. Crews were in the field Friday night during extreme weather conditions and successfully restored impacted customers, primarily in Hamden. Personnel were able to restore some 1,900 customers overnight, according to Michael West, UI spokesman.
Easton was prepared to respond to the storm and a massive accumulation of snow if it came to that, Mr. Herrmann said. He was prepared to activate the code red reverse 911 alert but never did.
Easton Senior Center staff remained in constant contact with Capt. Richard Doyle, the town’s emergency management director, according to Val Buckley, senior center director.
She didn’t open the center because weather conditions were so bad that they didn’t want people out on the roads. But volunteers remained at the center into the night, calling and emailing all Easton residents 65 and older, a total of 894 people. They didn’t leave until Capt. Doyle said the roads were too bad for travel.
Ms. Buckley fielded 40 calls from home the next day, and this week continued to assist people unable to get their property plowed because of the adverse conditions. Neighborhood captains checked in on people throughout the storm and its aftermath to make sure they were safe and warm. She watched as fire officials shoveled the driveway of a neighbor so the EMS could take him to the hospital, she said.
“What it took was a group of people working together,” Ms. Buckley said. “Easton is good at doing that. It didn’t take a lot of great technology.”
More snow on the way
On Wednesday as The Courier was off to Trumbull Printing Co. for publication and distribution the following day, Easton and the region braced for another winter storm.
After all, it’s February, and snow is to be expected. Still, the severity of recent weather events has produced a state of unease that’s not easily assuaged. Will Easton skate through unscathed again? The overwhelming attitude seems to be that it will.