A fierce storm brought heavy snow and strong wind gusts to the area Thursday, significantly impacting travel conditions and stranding motorists throughout the state.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for New Haven County. Gary Lessor, meteorologist with the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University, said up to 14 inches of was expected. The average snow fall was between eight and 14 inches, Lessor said.
“Be prepared for visibilities down to one quarter mile or less at times,” the National Weather Service said in a statement. “Winds gusting as high as 50 mph will cause areas of blowing and drifting snow, and bring (down) some tree limbs and powerlines.”
Snow began to fall about 3 a.m. Thursday. About 9 inches of snow had accumulated in Wallingford and Cheshire by 1 p.m. By 6 p.m, Wallingford had accumulated 10 inches and Cheshire 11.5 inches. Lessor said there may be some flurries or light snow showers before midnight, but no more significant acculumation overnight.
State DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said most of the department’s plows was out laying salt and clearing snow all day Thursday and will continue through the night until Friday’s morning commute.
He advised morning commuters to give themselves extra time to get to work.
“The morning commute will be okay, but it’s not going to be ideal,” Nursick said. Roads will likely still be snow-covered to some extent in the morning, as weather conditions are not conducive to clearing, Nursick said, referring to continued low temperatures and lack of sun exposure.
A blizzard warning is issued when considerable snowfall is expected and when sustained winds are higher than 30 mph with low visibility, Lessor said. As of 6 p.m., the warning is still in effect.
The storm was expected to end during the late afternoon and early-evening hours.
Meriden resident Kristina Rivera went outside during the afternoon to assess the snowfall. She said she hoped to get to work, but decided to stay home after discovering how much snow had accumulated.
Mohammad Afde, an employee at Village Food Mart in Meriden, 125 Scott St., opted to walk to work Thursday.
"I live right near here so I just walked,” he said. “I don't want to get stuck on the road."
Yvette Vargas, a former longtime resident of Puerto Rico who now lives in Meriden, said the blizzard was unexpected.
"After experiencing Hurricane Maria, I didn't expect this,” she said. "I do love the snow... it looks beautiful, but it's just please, let the sun come out."
State police spokeswoman Kelly Grant said the agency conducted extra patrols Thursday. As of about noon, troopers had responded to nearly 35 crashes and 140 calls for assistance, which included spin outs and cars stuck in the snow. White out conditions were reported on highways.
“If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out,” Grant said. “Please stay at home.”
According to a statement from Sergeant Eric JHaglund, of the state police, troopers had responded to 70 crashes, three involving injuries, and about 330 calls for assistance, as of 5 p.m.
In Meriden, the Route 15 Miller Avenue exit ramp was also closed.
The state Department of Transportation had 634 snowplows and 250 contracted drivers working to clear roads.
“Mother nature has the upper hand, at least until the snow stops falling,” Nursick said. “Conditions are not ideal for driving, despite us having all our trucks out right now.”
Nursick said there was little traffic on roads.
“We’re not going to get back to good driving conditions as quickly as we normally see,” Nursick said.
Seventy power outages were reported in Southington at about noon, according to Eversource Energy. Close to 500 outages were reported throughout the state.
“Our lineworkers, contractors, tree crews and support staff are ready to assist with restoring power to customers affected by storm-related outages,” Eversource said in a statement.
As of 5 p.m., Eversource reported 1,800 customers without power.
“Utilities are responding as conditions allow, however wind gusts are making restoration difficult and may take time to restore,” Malloy said in a tweet.
Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire schools cancelled Thursday and parking bans were in place. Classes were also cancelled Friday for Meriden, Wallingford and Cheshire schools.
CTtransit temporarily suspended Meriden bus routes 561, 563, 564, 565, and 566.
Gov. DannelP. Malloy asked nonessential first and second-shift state employees not to report to work Thursday. He said during an 8 a.m. media briefing that state agencies and utility companies are, “in fact, ready to respond.”
He anticipated that highways would remain open for the duration of the storm, but “strongly recommended that Connecticut motorists stay off the road unless absolutely necessary.” Malloy noted that states with higher forecast totals were keeping their highways and interstates open, so closing them in Connecticut could result in unsafe traffic backups at the borders.
He urged those who do venture out onto the roads to use caution and remain behind any trucks.
Malloy also urged residents to be prepared for power outages due to the high winds. He noted that utility companies can’t have crews use bucket trucks when winds exceed 35 miles per hour due to safety concerns.
Malloy said residents should exercise caution with alternative heating sources, including not bringing units intended for outdoor use inside their home. With temperatures expected to drop back near or below zero degrees after the storm, he also said residents should take steps to avoid frozen pipes.
Running a trickle of water through faucets and opening cabinets to allow heat to reach pipes are just two ways residents can keep pipes from freezing, he said.
Residents who need shelter should call 211, Malloy also said, adding there are at least 108 warming shelters in 34 towns across the state.
Meriden Public Works Director Bob Bass said more than 20 city plows were working to clear snow.
“They’re doing an excellent job,” he said.
Bass said residents should pay attention to the parking ban, which went into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday and will continue until 3 p.m. today. Bass said they will be tagging and towing any cars parked on the road during that time.
Wallingford’s parking ban began at 5 a.m. Thursday. Cheshire and Southington also had parking bans running from midnight Wednesday until noon today.
Bradley International Airport spokeswoman Alisa Sisic said though the airport was open, about 75 percent of arriving and departing flights had been cancelled as of 5 p.m.
“We are continuing to closely monitor the winter storm and our snow removal efforts are ongoing with the focus on keeping runways and taxiways clear,” Sisic said in a statement. “Passengers are advised to contact their airline regarding their individual flight itineraries and any potential rebooking options before heading to the airport.”
Amtrak service between New Haven and Springfield operated on a modified schedule.
“Passengers with reservations on trains that are being modified will be contacted and accommodated on trains with similar departure times or another day,” Amtrak said in a statement. “Anyone planning to travel should check their train status prior to departing, allow extra time to get to the station and be extremely careful in stations and on platforms.”
Metro-North’s New Haven Line was experiencing delays up to 30 minutes. Some trains were cancelled.
Malloy said Metro-North is expected to run normal service Friday.
State police advised drivers to slow down, increase following distance and to drive in already traveled lanes.
Although more snowfall is not expected in the coming days, Malloy said residents should be wary of freezing temperatures
“It’s going to be bitterly cold over the weekend,” Malloy said at an evening press conference, noting temperature records may be broken.
Lessor said the weekend is expected to bring daytime temperatures in the single digits and low teens and nighttime temperatures from zero to 10 below. Winds will continue at high speeds, but not as intense as Thursday. Wind may be around 10 to 20 mph, with gusts reaching 40 mph tomorrow. By Sunday, the winds will have died down substantially.