Clouds move in. Winds die down. The air gets that indescribable, before-it-snows stillness New Englanders can feel in their bones. Then the flakes start falling.
While most people are holed up in homes/apartments/prepper bunkers waiting for the storm to do its worst and move on, those responsible for keeping roads clear are just getting started.
But faced with often disparate forecasts about how long the snow will fall — and how much of it will end up piled on the ground — how do they decide when and where to go?
It’s an imperfect science.
Public works officials in the area said the plan of attack for plowing roads depends on a lot of factors that are always changing.
“They’ll call in an initial crew and they’ll keep beefing it up as the weather dictates,” Paul DiMauro, Shelton’s director of public works, said Thursday morning. “And depending on the time. There’s no sense in going crazy at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Derby Public Works Director Ron Culmo said crews will be on call in Derby Friday morning but will be concerned mainly with addressing any trouble spots called in by police.
Then, more crews will be called in as the storm intensifies.
The timing of the storm may work to the favor of the crews, DiMauro said.
“The fortunate thing is it’s on a Friday night,” he said. “You don’t go into it too crazy (early) because you don’t want to tire out the guys prematurely, or push the equipment before you really have to.”
“You’ve got to use some common sense,” DiMauro went on. “But our guys are experienced, they’ve been doing it for years.”
Once the white stuff starts piling up faster, though, plow crews have to prioritize which spots to hit.
“If it starts coming down very heavy, our main concern is the main roads and the hills,” Culmo said.
DiMauro said the procedure is similar in Shelton, with plows focusing on main roads and the hillier sections of town first.
If a blizzard descends on a city with as many miles of roads as Shelton does, there’s only so much the crews can do to keep up with the snowfall, he said.
“You always get people who want their streets done first,” DiMauro said. “People on the flat streets, the turnarounds, the dead ends, we won’t get to until later.”
That may be frustrating, he said, which is understandable.
But as Culmo said Friday, the fewer people on the roads, the quicker the job of clearing them can get done.
What’s more, he said: those who do venture out in bad conditions put themselves at risk.
“No one belongs on the road until the roads are clear and they’re safe to drive,” Culmo said. “People should just stay home.”
If an ambulance or fire call comes in for a certain address, he said a public works truck will be sent to make sure first responders can get in and out.
The Valley Indy asked readers on Facebook what roads are the last to get plowed after storms. Click here to read the responses.
In Seymour, First Selectman Kurt Miller sent a Code Red message to residents Thursday afternoon detailing preparations.
All public buildings will be closed in Seymour Friday, and Miller encouraged residents not to travel during the brunt of the storm.
If the town experiences a “significant” power loss, he said, “the town is prepared to take appropriate steps to protect our residents from the cold.”
In Ansonia, a Code Red emergency message was sent Thursday about 4:20 p.m. saying all public buildings would be closed Friday and that a parking ban would be in place on city streets between noon Friday and noon Sunday.
All school and public parking lots will be open for residents to use as off-street parking, Ansonia’s Code Red message said.
All schools in the lower Valley are closed Friday.