No. suburbs, Conn. residents cope with ice storm

February 2, 2011 8:29:35 PM PST
A storm dumped more snow and a dangerous mix of ice, sleet and rain on Connecticut and New York City's northern suburbs, as winter-weary residents worried about roof collapses and how to get to work while utilities braced for power outages.

Rockland saw a bit more snow before the switch to sleet and freezing rain.

Throughout the area rooftops have been stressed with heavy loads.

This morning the roof an abandoned former civic association collapsed. No one was hurt.

As temperatures warmed up in the afternoon Wednesday, ice that had accumulated on trees and power lines began to melt.

Though major roadways are moving well now, the concern is that any standing water will refreeze.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy activated Connecticut's Emergency Operations Center ahead of the storms.

"When you talk about ice conditions, then it's a little bit more troublesome because then you lose wires, then you lose poles and then you use other connections," Malloy said.

Connecticut state police say there have been 145 accidents since the storm hit.

Lt. J. Paul Vance said Wednesday no serious injuries have been reported. He says roads are deceptively dangerous, appearing clear when there is ice. Vance said authorities have received 1,700 calls for assistance.

Malloy ordered all non-essential state employees to report to work at 10:30 a.m.

In addition to making driving dangerous, the snow/ice mix is causing power outages and putting more stress on already overloaded roofs.

Residents, however, struggled to take the latest storm in stride.

"Enough," Audra Kaminsky of North Haven said as her husband shoveled snow off their roof.

Mark McFadden, a 42-year-old English teacher who lives in New Haven, said 10-foot snow piles made it tough to find parking.

"It's just been a nightmare," McFadden said. "I'm going to go home early and see if I can get a parking spot on my street."

Connecticut's two utilities braced for an ice storm that could bring down power lines and cause outages.

Mitch Gross, spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power, the state's largest utility, said 175 crews have been asked to bring in extra clothing and are ready for emergencies.

Anita Steeves, a spokeswoman for United Illuminating, said trucks are stocked and ready to go, the utility's call center is on alert and more staff has been added to the operations center.

Hartford city workers were sent home early on Tuesday afternoon.

Like other cities, Connecticut's capital imposed a parking ban.

Once the storm ends, city crews planned to hit the streets with a special truck that blows and melts snow, hoping to reduce snow mounds and make more parking available.

The latest storm added to the headaches of Connecticut school superintendents, who are required by state law to ensure students get at least 180 days of classes. Districts cannot stay open past June 30, the state's nod to the lack of air-conditioning in many school buildings.

But at the current rate of snow days, several superintendents say they could bump up close to that deadline if they don't take days out of the February or April vacations. At least one school district, Monroe, has canceled its weeklong February break to recoup the snow days.

Eyewitness News was given a tour as mechanics made last-minute adjustments to the fleet of trucks that are battling the ice.

Town of Clarkstown Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard said the conditions would make for a messy Wednesday morning. But it's wasn't just the roads he was concerned about. Trees could be a problem as well, with ice building up on the branches. That led officials to be proactive.

Crews were hoping that a little work ahead of time would prevent a lot of work later, and that was the game plan for utility and tree-trimming crews who fanned out ahead of the storm.

"As soon as we get ice and snow on the silver maples, they bend with the ice," said Tim Henderson, with Lewis Tree Trimmers. "It doesn't take much and they have very weak crotches, so it ends up splitting the tree and lying on the wires causing the wires to come down."

Chainsaws and cherry-pickers helped workers remove tree limbs and branches hanging over power lines of limbs that could ice up and then come down, which would knock out electricity to businesses and homeowners.

"We lose power quite often in this area," Jim O'Gorman said. "I don't know if it's the grid or what, but we always seem to lose power."

Utility crews tell Eyewitness News that each area that undergoes a tree-trimming means less worries not just for this storm, but for several winters to come.

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