MELROSE — Snow began falling here, however lightly, early Monday afternoon. When it ended shortly before dawn Wednesday — after the rage and fury of a classic winter nor’easter — Melrose had received over two feet. And there’s more snow on the way.
The city, like all other municipalities in eastern Massachusetts, was brought to an almost complete standstill. Many businesses were forced to close, school was cancelled for two days, the streets were virtually barren of everything except swirling, wind-blown flakes and the plow operators charged with cleaning up after them. When residents finally had a chance to dig out, they encountered knee-high drifts in a lot of places.
The winter of 2014-15 swooped down harshly on Melrosians this week.
The storm lasted close to 40 hours. The DPW had over 85 pieces of equipment, including those of private contractors, out to tackle the snow. The cleanup took several days.
Mayor Robert J. Dolan urged patience. He said on his blog, “Life will not be fully back to normal until the end of the week if the magnitude of this storm is as advertised.” In most cases, the advertisement was dead on.
Schools were back in session Thursday, but Supt. of Schools Cyndy Taymore encouraged parents not to let their children walk to school because street corners were blocked and in many cases sidewalks still had to be plowed.
The mayor Monday declared a city Snow Emergency and on-street parking ban as of 10 p.m., extending through Wednesday morning.
City Hall and all city buildings except the Police and Fire Departments closed at 5 p.m. Monday. They reopened Wednesday.
All city meetings and municipal events scheduled for Monday and Tuesday were canceled. One of those meetings was of the Melrose Liquor License Commission, where Dolan planned to lay out changes to the city’s liquor regulations.
Due to the blizzard, trash and recycling pickups scheduled for Tuesday, January 27, were postponed for one day, and pickups were on a holiday schedule for the rest of the week.
School was cancelled both Tuesday and Wednesday, and officials were planning a mid-afternoon meeting Wednesday to determine what to do about classes on Thursday, Jan. 29.
An event to honor the recipients of the latest round of grants from the Melrose Education Foundation was postponed from Tuesday to Thursday in Memorial Hall.
Dolan sent a message to merchants reminding them that snow removal along the frontages of their businesses was the individual merchant’s responsibility.
Tuesday at noon, as the blizzard continue to bare its teeth, everyone was urged to stay off city streets because of the danger and the fact that traffic would impede snow removal operations.
Dolan reminded residents that it is illegal to plow snow into the streets or to block sidewalks, and if people were caught doing it, they would be penalized.
In an unusual call to arms, Dolan announced that Veterans Memorial Middle School Principal Brent Conway and Marianne Farrell, the leader of Melrose High, had approved of a community service initiative where students would get credit for digging out a hydrant, shoveling out a corner (which is particularly needed), or clearing the sidewalk of a neighbor in need for no charge. Youths were invited to “take a picture of that hydrant, corner, or sidewalk, and identify your street, you will be given community service credit toward your the Melrose Public School community service requirements.
“One of the more significant ways you can help is to shovel out the corners at the end of your block and at intersections so people can cross properly. That will provide greater access in all areas of the city for pedestrian traffic. Take the picture and e-mail it, along with the location, to email@example.com.”
Citizens were also reminded to be patient with city plow crews, who could not avoid plowing residents back in during street clearing.
Dolan said, “There is no magic way to plow that will allow us to clear and widen the roads without pushing that snow back into driveways. The roads must be widened with this amount of snow….”
Later on Tuesday, Dolan wrote, “We are now in the more challenging part of the storm in that most of the staff has been working since 7 p.m. last night, and for safety reasons our staff must take sleep breaks, which periodically affects the number of people on the streets working. Once the breaks are completed, which takes several hours, there will be another major operation. Snow removal, however, never stops.
“We have about 20 inches of snow, with the expectation that the storm will continue for another six hours. The snow is very light, and we are very happy to report there have been no power outages in Melrose, as well as no injuries or accidents.
“The goal now is to keep up with the storm and plow the main arteries. Obviously the main arteries have been cleared several times, but with the wind and lighter snow, the snow is pushed back into the streets. When the storm settles, we will implement another major attack on central arteries and side roads. (In our next post we will talk about sidewalk routes, so please stay tuned.)
“The next phase of snow removal is the schools. We have many neighborhood schools where snow needs to be hauled away. This is a very lengthy, time- and labor-intensive process. That begins after the central arteries and side streets are passable, and that will not happen until much later in the evening. The timing of the end of the storm will dictate whether or not there will be school tomorrow. Many cities are already beginning to cancel school for tomorrow; that decision will come at a later time for us.
“As I said (Monday), this will be a multi-day cleanup, because the hauling of snow is time- and labor-intensive and we still have to allow the staff to sleep and rest in order to ensure the safety of our staff and the public in a storm of this length. A few days out, we will begin to see the removal of snow from business districts as well as corners, as you have seen in the past. This work must be done overnight. It is loud and with many trucks hauling the snow it will be disruptive in some neighborhoods near business districts and schools. There is no way to avoid this — it needs to be done at night due to the number of large trucks and front-end loaders necessary, the space required for them to work, and the need for the roadway to be clear of cars, traffic, and pedestrians.
“After the business districts are clear, we will start hauling snow out of parking areas. Obviously, considering the the size of our staff and the multiple pieces of equipment we have, coupled with the need for our workers to rest, it will take several days to bring life completely back to normal,” Dolan concluded.
The area was forecasted to get a little bit more snow Thursday into today, with a potentially bigger storm on the way Sunday into Monday.