This article has been updated to reflect the version in print on Jan. 25.
A historic blizzard bore down on the East Coast over the weekend, with over two feet of snow falling in Central Park and New Haveners across the city digging out from the winter’s first snowstorm.
The storm was the city’s most severe since the Nor’easter of 2013 dropped over three feet in the New Haven area. Still, by Sunday morning, most streets in the city had been cleared. Having learned lessons from previous winter storms, Deputy Director of Emergency Management Rick Fontana said at a meeting in the city’s Emergency Operations Center Friday that New Haven would “over-prepare” for the expected six inches of snow.
“The last thing we want to happen is someone standing in front of the news media saying we dropped the ball here,” he said. “So we’re going to ramp up higher, and if we need to scale back, we can do that.”
Fontana’s over-preparation proved wise, as the eventual 16 inches of accumulation exceeded the Friday forecast provided by the National Weather Service.
A partial parking ban was in effect throughout the city during the storm, which lasted from Saturday morning until the early hours of Sunday. Parking was prohibited in Downtown and on posted snow routes. Tag-and-tow operations targeting cars in violation of the parking ban began Saturday night. Free and reduced rates were available at parking garages in Downtown, where residents could move their cars. To ensure residents were aware of the parking ban, the city posted blinking blue lights above parking-ban signs on traffic-light support beams.
Jeff Pescosolido, chief of the Department of Public Works, said the department had the ability to mobilize up to 50 snowplowing vehicles on Saturday and during the early hours of Sunday morning. He said streets were pretreated with a brine solution to speed snowmelt. He said he expects warm temperatures and sunshine early in the week to aid in clearing snow from the sides of streets.
“We’re going to wing this one,” Pescosolido said on Friday, emphasizing the variability of forecasts in the run-up to the storm. “It seems like every plan we’ve put together has changed, but … Public Works is prepared with enough vehicles and enough material to handle this storm.”
Pescosolido said the public works, parks and transportation departments planned to plow city streets throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning.
In response to below-freezing temperatures and wind gusts of up to 55 miles per hour — that left exposed grass on Science Hill — New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman said the department would be “rescuing” homeless people found in the snow and bringing them to shelters or hospitals. Fontana added that two overnight warming centers extended their hours throughout the duration of the storm, though city buildings, including the New Haven Free Public Library, were closed.
Speaking Friday, Fontana said coastal flooding had the capacity to become problematic, especially in the low-lying areas of the city already prone to flooding. Saturday night saw a full moon and high tide, elevating the risk of flooding in the Long Wharf area and around police headquarters on Union Avenue. Fontana said the city planned on erecting flood barriers in historically high-risk areas.
Fontana urged residents to use SeeClickFix, New Haven’s online nuisance-reporting system, to make authorities aware of unplowed streets and covered sidewalks. Roughly 40 snow-related complaints filtered in throughout Saturday and Sunday, but nearly all have now been resolved, according to the website.
Public events throughout New Haven were cancelled due to the storm over the weekend, including planned track meets and SAT testing.