MERIDEN— Just two days before Halloween, on Oct. 29, 2011, a rare October Nor’easter put the state in the dark and canceled or postponed Halloween celebrations.
“This freak winter storm was an early season Nor'easter causing close to 2 feet of snow for parts of the state,” said Gary Lessor, assistant to the director of meteorological studies/Weather Center chief meteorologist at Western Connecticut State University.
Snow eerily began falling around noon that day, and slippery roads developed an hour later. The slick roads caused a number of incidents to the point where Gov. Dannel Malloy signed an order closing the Merritt Parkway and Wilbur Cross Parkway due to horrid driving conditions.
“When that snow storm occurred, I was actually running for office and I was outside of Stop & Shop campaigning for City Council,” said Mayor Kevin Scarpati, who was the athletic director of the YMCA of Meriden at the time of the October Nor’easter. “I was out there for a couple of hours and the snow started to accumulate rather quickly and the grocery store was packed with people scurrying to get their groceries. I remember vividly tree branches snapping as I was helping a gentleman who was struggling to push his cart.”
Trees and branches were all down by 3 p.m. and the mayhem continued.
“The heavy wet snow clung to the trees and branches which subsequently still had leaves on them, causing them to fall taking down the powerlines,” Lessor said.
By nightfall a third of Meriden and Southington and two-thirds of Cheshire were without power and spookily left in the dark. A state of emergency was declared after a reported 830,000 people in Connecticut lost power, breaking the record set after Hurricane Irene.
“Meriden received 7 inches of snow and Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire received around 4 to 8 inches,” Lessor said. “Other areas like Prospect and Oakdale received 8 inches, Granby received 6 to 8 inches, Waterbury 8.8 inches, North Haven 7.7 inches, and down the shore to New Haven received 3 inches.”
Parking bans were enforced and emergency shelters and warming stations were opened at places like the Meriden Senior Center, YMCA and Edison and Lincoln middle schools.
“Typically during that time when snow would come, we would follow the guidance of the state and others and close our doors,” Mayor Scarpati said. “But the Mission of the Y is to help families that need it and I believe it was our CEO John Benigni who said, ‘I think Meriden needs us now more than ever. I think we can serve more people by being open rather than being closed.’”
Members and nonmembers were welcomed to warm up, shower and utilize charging stations set up in the lobby.
“Many families were displaced from their homes and schools and businesses were closed,” Lessor said.
Residents from all over Central Connecticut booked area hotels with electricity to capacity. Gas stations, restaurants and convenience stores saw steady traffic as well with residents filling up, warming up, and grabbing coffee and hot meals.
Area residents were without power for over a week. City officials at the time cited lack of crews, lack of planning and lack of communication as the reasons.
“Agencies like the YMCA really stepped up. They also held indoor trick-or-treating events so that kids could still come out and have a great experience,” Scarpati said. “This was something unusual and hopefully won’t repeat.”
It was about 10 to 15 degrees colder than the average of 55 degrees during the October Nor’easter. Prior to this storm, there hadn’t been a recorded snow accumulation in October in New Haven County since 1979, when an inch was measured in Stamford, according to the National Weather Service.
“Normal temperatures the week of Halloween are a high of 58 degrees and a low of 38 degrees. The warmest it has been was 82 degrees in 1946 and the coldest morning was 21 degrees in 2020,” Lessor explained. “Currently it is predicted to be partly sunny in the mid 60s with the threat of showers on the mild side, but that is subject to change.”
While it’s looking like we won’t have another Nor’easter this year canceling Halloween, make sure to prepare for El Niño this winter.