Snow causes unexpected challenge for area school systems

An unexpected blanket of snow snarled traffic Monday morning, causing delays for commuters and school buses in the central part of the state.

According to meteorologist Gary Lessor, between 2 and 3 inches of slushy snow fell in Meriden, Wallingford, Cheshire, and Southington, causing nearly 100 traffic incidents in the four towns, none of which resulted in serious injury.

Southington Police Sgt. Jeffrey Dobratz said there were about a dozen reports of accidents or vehicles stuck on the roads, including tractor-trailers stuck on hills. Dobratz said calls came in from around 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and included a car colliding with a utility pole and another car colliding with a mailbox.

Likewise, there were no serious injuries with the 47 reported accidents and stuck vehicles in Wallingford, Lt. Marc Mikulski said. Calls between 7:35 a.m. and noon ranged from cars stuck in snow to blocked roads, Mikulski said.

In Cheshire, Lt. Brian Pichnarcik said reports of 10 accidents and 12 stuck vehicles came in between 7 a.m. and noon. The calls included stranded school buses and a traffic jam on Route 10 caused by a stranded tractor-trailer. There were no serious injuries.

Lessor said the snowfall in Central Connecticut was caused by the unexpected intensity of the precipitation and cold air. He said the same system that brought heavy rain Saturday and Sunday shifted to the east early Monday.

Area school officials were also caught by surprise. Meriden, Cheshire, Southington and Wallingford schools had a normal schedule on Monday.

Wallingford School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said that by the time the snow started falling high school and middle school students were already in class, and elementary bus routes were underway.

“The buses were already on the road, so to pull buses back would have left students waiting outside, and created work conflicts for parents,” Menzo said.

Menzo said forecasters were taken by surprise.

“Both (Meriden School Superintendent) Mark Benigni and I were on the phone with a meteorologist starting at 4 a.m., and he just didn’t anticipate the snow taking a heightened intensity,” Menzo said.

Cheshire School Superintendent Greg Florio said that the unexpectedness of the storm made for “some very slow going” with buses Monday morning.

“There were no accidents, and no problems, but a lot of delayed buses, and buses that had problems finishing their routes,” Florio said.

In that case, Florio said that routes were divided up to make them easier.

“For the most part, routes just took a lot longer to complete. It was a challenge,” Florio said.

“I could see where parents would be frustrated, but I think for the most part, people understood that this was really unexpected.”



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