By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — After sputtering and stalling since late November, winter finally arrived with a vengeance on Jan. 26 and 27. The Blizzard of 2015 — among the top five storms in the state’s recorded history — left behind over 24 inches of snow locally and upwards of 30 inches or more in surrounding communities.
The intense wind created significant drifts, making it difficult to determine a precise inch count, said DPW Director Andrew Lafferty. The blizzard also arrived on the heels of a six-inch snowstorm the previous Saturday.
For good measure, the blizzard brought with it bitterly cold temperatures in the single digits. Even though the classic nor’easter delivered window-rattling winds inland and hurricane-force winds along the coast, the majority of the state was spared major power outages, the most significant of which occurred on the island of Nantucket and affected about 12,000 people.
Preliminary cost: $120K
Leading into this storm the town had exhausted approximately half of its annual snow and ice removal budget of $120,000, Lafferty said. His preliminary estimate on the cost of snow removal for this blizzard is in excess of $120,000, but he added that this figure does not include the smaller storm from the previous Saturday.
The region was significantly behind on snowfall totals prior to the blizzard. Locally, the town had seen only about 13 inches of snow from three measurable events starting with a three-inch storm on Thanksgiving day. Another storm left behind a four-inch mix of snow and slush followed by the six-inch storm on Jan. 24.
“An endurance event”
Lafferty said the town began pretreating the roads around 3:30 p.m. last Monday and sent out snow removal equipment at midnight. In all, 37 private contractors and 14 DPW employees were deployed throughout the storm, with snow falling at a rate of one to three inches per hour.
Reached last Wednesday afternoon at Town Hall, Lafferty said his crews were on the roads between 31-32 hours during the “initial major push in the storm.”
“We stopped last night at midnight and then they went home for about four hours,” he said. After getting some much-deserved sleep, a smaller crew returned on Wednesday for daytime snow removal operations from parking lots and sidewalks. The smaller crew included a mix of town employees and contractors, he said.
“They’re doing some scraping of the small side roads that we hadn’t had the opportunity to go back to scrape and re-treat. And we’re clearing snow from the parking lots for schools and municipal buildings and retreating those parking lots (in preparation) for school to be in session Thursday,” he said.
Lafferty, who began his new post in September, was pleased with the overall snow removal effort and praised the professionalism of both his DPW crews and the private contractors.
While it was the first major storm event he oversaw in this town, he’s benefited from experience in other communities, including his last post in Newburyport.
“I think it went well. Obviously, it isn’t their first storm either. Our guys are very good at this type of stuff so it made my job a lot easier,” he said, adding, “We didn’t have a lot of equipment breakdowns. The crews managed the extended timeframe very well, making sure they had rest, food, water and kept hydrated. It’s an endurance event, not a sprint. And the contractors that we had on board were very good.”
Lafferty was there with them throughout the storm as well. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he joked.
The town’s snow removal efforts were helped greatly by the fact that Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency and instituted a travel ban in effect from midnight Monday through 6 p.m. Tuesday, with exceptions made for those involved in public safety operations, the media or personal emergencies.
All after-school activities were cancelled at the close of school on Monday and Lynnfield students enjoyed two consecutive snow days on Tuesday and Wednesday. Town Hall and the library were closed on Tuesday, as were most businesses statewide, which kept residents off the roads and enabled everyone to dig out from the storm.
Town board meetings were also cancelled on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and trash removal was delayed by one day. The Fire Department set up an emergency shelter at the Lynnfield Middle School as of 7 p.m. Monday due to the projected duration of the storm and the potential for power outages accompanied by frigid temperatures. Fortunately, no one needed to use it and no power outages were reported in town.
Although the clean up job was mammoth it was a lot more tolerable for residents when they had not lost their sources of heat and light.
The snow was also light and fluffy due to the significant amount of drifting it was not unusual for some cars to be completely cleared of snow on their roofs but buried in drifts higher than their windows.
The DPW was grateful to residents for abiding by the emergency parking ban on town streets. No tows were necessary and just a few residents needed to be asked to move their vehicles, Lafferty said.
Another storm cancels school, delays trash
Just a week later, school was cancelled once again on Monday due to a daytime nor’easter arriving during the morning commute that promised to leave behind another foot or more of snow throughout much of the state as the Villager was going to press.
Also as a result of the Feb. 2 storm, all trash and recycling collection will be delayed by one day, following a holiday schedule. Residents are asked to please have all trash out by 7 a.m. but understand that ormolu pickup times may be delayed. The DPW reminds residents that barrels and bins must be placed in areas where JRM can reach them as they will not shovel to reach barrels. Please only call the DPW if pick-up was not made.
The Town Hall phone system also went down on Monday morning making it impossible for outside calls to reach the building. Technicians were working to correct the problem at press time.