Surprise snowstorm strikes Northeast, Family Weekend

A snowstorm of historic proportions slammed Connecticut over the weekend, bringing record snowfall and more power outages than Hurricane Irene.
A snowstorm of historic proportions slammed Connecticut over the weekend, bringing record snowfall and more power outages than Hurricane Irene. Photo by Victor Kang.

UPDATED: 10:33 p.m. It wasn’t only parents who arrived in the Elm City this Family Weekend — more than four inches of snow have fallen since noon Saturday.

With Connecticut blanketed in white — 5 to 9 inches are predicted to fall overnight — Governor Dannel Malloy announced a state of emergency Saturday evening as the storm looked set to break records all over the East Coast. By 8 p.m., over 1,400 houses in New Haven were without power and at least 525,000 customers were in the dark statewide, according to United Illuminating and Connecticut Light & Power.

Those without power will have to wait “a prolonged period of time” to regain power, Malloy said, explaining power restoration efforts will only begin once conditions are safer. He advised residents to “stay home [and] have a Halloween party in your own house.” at a 6:30 p.m. press conference in Hartford.

The storm is set to challenge the state’s current record for snowfall in October, which stands at 9.5 inches and was recorded in Norfolk, Conn. in 1987.

DeStefano said the city will not implement a parking ban in response to the snow, leaving residents and visitors free to park on city streets. But across the state, the snow has snarled travel. As of 10 p.m., Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven line service is operating with delays of up to 45 minutes due to weather-related signal problems, and all Saturday evening flights to and from Tweed-New Haven Airport have been cancelled. Meanwhile, Amtrak service along the Northeast Corridor remains unaffected.

At Yale, Deputy Secretary for the University Martha Highsmith said that the University was prepared for the snow, and that as of 6 p.m. she has not received any reports of significant damage from the storm. Crews are out to clear snow out of areas around Yale Health and “other areas of high importance,” Highsmith wrote in an email to the News.

“We are staying ahead of the storm so far,” she said in an email at 10 p.m. .

So far, there have been no closings at the University or in the city of New Haven, and Yale shuttles remain in operation, according to Yale Emergency Management.

Citywide, New Haven has not yet seen substantial weather-related problems, but emergency workers are on call to handle issues like fallen tree branches and power outages, City Hall spokesman Adam Joseph said.

“Wet snow and high winds have 100 downed trees and loss of power to 1400 households,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in an emergency notification to the city. “I have activated the city’s emergency operations center and street crews will be working throughout the night so if you have trees call the police department’s non-emergency telephone number to report it.”

New Haven had not seen “any real loss of service” by late afternoon, Joseph said. He added that though the road was not cold enough for the snow to “really be an issue,” but if the forecast changes, City Hall will be ready to enact emergency procedures.

Compared to Hurricane Irene, though, the snowstorm does not pose a particularly challenging threat, Joseph said. The city’s biggest concerns are high winds and snowfall bringing down tree branches on the powerlines, which have caused small blackouts in parts of New Haven, he added.

“There’s lots of downed power lines, lots of downed trees and tree limbs,” New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said. “The streets get blocked and vehicles get stuck and that’s what we deal with, reporting to the public works department.”

Beyond addressing the hazardous conditions, the NHPD is prepared to send additional officers to neighborhoods with power outages to help deal with the increase in malfunctioning burglar alarms, Hartman added.

Earlier in the day, Malloy signed an executive order banning non-emergency traffic on the Wilbur Cross and Merritt Parkways due to treacherous conditions Saturday afternoon. The roads remain closed as of Saturday evening.

“The storm is causing treacherous driving conditions down along the Merritt Parkway particularly, as well as on roadways across the state,” Malloy said. “I am urging residents to stay off the roads and let DOT crews get out there and get the streets clear.

A winter storm warning and high winds warning from the National Weather Service will be in place until 6 a.m. Sunday, and a coastal floods warning remains in effect until 2 a.m. that same day.

Keep checking with the News for the latest updates on the storm.

Nick Defiesta contributed reporting.

Comments

  • MikeSmith

    Calling this storm a “surprise” is ridiculous: http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2011/10/amazing-forecast-meteorology-does-it.html

    I am the author of a book, “Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather” which makes the point that storm warnings have become so accurate that they are ignored at our peril. Too many lives have been lost in this year’s storms (Irene and the spring tornadoes) that giving the false impression of inaccurate forecasts does a real disservice to the public.