Connecticut cities continue struggle to remove snow

February 13, 2013 5:27:02 AM PST
Connecticut's largest cities are still struggling to remove huge amounts of snow from narrow streets littered with abandoned vehicles.

In Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch said Tuesday that Connecticut's largest city was making progress but many roads were still not passable. He said the snow removal effort was slowed by hundreds of abandoned vehicles.

Finch said the goal was to get at least one lane open on all roads by Sunday. He said the city had not seen so much snow at once since 1888 and has been scouring the region to get bucket loaders to remove snow.

"It's still very difficult getting around much of the city," Finch said. "It's been a painstaking almost surgical inch by inch approach."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy acknowledged it's going to take more time to clear the snow in congested, urban areas. He expected at least a path would be cleared on nearly all local roads by Tuesday night.

But he said life in much of Connecticut is getting back to normal after the weekend snowstorm.

The Department of Transportation's main roads were 95 percent cleared of snow. Malloy said the state probably will get to 100 percent by Tuesday night, enabling DOT to then focus on widening more secondary state roads.

Also, the commuter rail system was expected to be fully operational on Wednesday.

Public schools in several cities, including New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury and New Britain, will remain closed Wednesday. New Britain, citing safety concerns for students walking on narrow streets, said schools will remain closed for the rest of the week.

In New Haven, officials said roads were passable and crews were trying to widen them and remove enormous piles of plowed snow. Mayor John DeStefano said officials were trying to figure out when to reopen schools, noting that with all the snow there is a lack of space for children to stand on corners to wait for buses.

As DeStefano spoke, a bulldozer removed 6-foot-tall piles of snow from a narrow, densely populated side street where residents were digging out their cars. Traffic passed slowly on the main road.

Cornelius Washington, a 23-year-old laborer, was among those trying for hours to shovel out his car. He said he hasn't been able to go to work.

"I couldn't afford to wait any more," Washington said.

He said the city plows arrived Tuesday on the side road. The roads still were not safe, he said.

Juan Morales, a 35-year-old resident who was walking nearby, said his street was not plowed. He said two cars got stuck in the middle of his street and were removed Monday, but the factory where he makes brake pads for cars was still closed so he hasn't worked since the storm.

"I got a lot of bills," Morales said. "They're going to have to wait until I get back on my feet and start paying a little by little."

New Haven was towing cars that were abandoned or blocking emergency vehicles and planning to tow cars parked on snow emergency routes. Earlier, the city set up checkpoints at four entry points to discourage non-essential travel so that snow-removal efforts were not slowed.

In Waterbury, the mayor encouraged teens and adults looking to make some extra cash to show up at City Hall on Tuesday for snow removal jobs. He said he'll pay them minimum wage to help shovel out the city's schools.

Malloy, who toured New Haven and other municipalities around the state Tuesday, said the state is providing pay loaders and other equipment and releasing contractors to help cities and towns with snow removal. He said he also asked the state's utilities to assist municipalities with snow removal.

"The parking situation in cities makes picking up 24 to 40 inches of snow very difficult," Malloy said. "It's the urban environments that in these situations have the toughest time."

Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh in Hartford contributed to this report.

Associated Press Writer Stephen Singer in Manchester, Conn., contributed to this report.

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