Weekend Blizzard Clogs Barnstable Roads
By: James Kinsella
A major snowstorm socked Barnstable early Sunday morning—and the town still was staggering in the early part of the week.
Snowfall that reached an estimated 15 to 20 inches combined with northeast winds gusting over 50 miles per hour shut down activity throughout the town Sunday. The height of the snowfall and winds occurred from midnight to 8 AM.
Monday was not much better, even though the snow had stopped. Driving on local streets and roads ranged from tricky to treacherous to nearly impossible. Barnstable schools did not open, nor did Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable.
Sunday’s nor’easter was part of a storm that mixed heavy snow with high winds along the Eastern Seaboard, pounding cities from Washington, D.C. to Boston.
Mark Ells, director of public works for the town, said plow crews worked all day Sunday to 7 PM, took a break, and returned to the roads at 3 AM Monday for another long shift.
The town uses 40 of its own vehicles and 120 private contractors to clear the 1,800 roads in town. For the purposes of organizing the plowing, Mr. Ells said, the town is divided into sections and each plow driver is given an area to plow.
Primary roads get priority, followed by secondary and private roads. Last come sidewalks.
Drifting snow worked against crews’ efforts to clear roads, Mr. Ells said. A plow driver would clear a street only to look back to see snow starting to drift back over.
Disgruntlement grew among residents and business people, however, as roads remained clogged with snow Monday and did not improve much on Tuesday.
One man who asked not to be identified was surprised by the poor condition on Monday afternoon of such major Hyannis roads as Bearse’s Way and North Street.
“We should have had enough time to have them cleared by now,” the man said.
Mr. Ells said the town’s system was challenged by the size of the weekend’s storm.
“These 12-plus-inch storms are not what we’re really geared up for,” he said Monday. “We don’t get storms like that too often.”
Still, he said only a couple of contractor plows got stuck while plowing, and none of the town plows got stuck. In fact, despite the large drifts in this storm, no more plows were getting stuck than usual, Mr. Ells said.
A number of cars slid off roads or bumped into each other in the town during and after the blizzard, according to Barnstable Police Sergeant Sean Sweeney.
"We had the usual snowstorm stuff, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been," Sgt. Sweeney said.
"A lot of people stayed at home," he said. "That helped us immensely."
The sergeant said some stayed put because, it being the weekend, they did not have to travel to or from work. Others could not get out of their driveways onto the road even if they wanted.
The 1 PM start to the televised New England Patriots football game Sunday also cut down on afternoon traffic—an effect that Barnstable police have noticed on other football Sundays.
Still, the storm brought its share of traffic problems Sunday, including a bottleneck involving about eight stuck vehicles at the intersection of Route 130 and Route 28 not far from the Mashpee town line.
Barnstable Muncipal Airport in Hyannis shut down Sunday due to blizzard conditions and did not reopen until 2 PM Monday, according to the airport's manager, Roland W. "Bud" Breault Jr.
"We sent the crews home at one point," Mr. Breault said of the plows working at the airport. "It got so bad with the whiteout conditions that you couldn't see anything."
Deborah Converse, president and chief executive officer of the Hyannis Area Chamber of Commerce, said merchants were fortunate to have clear weather last Saturday in advance of the storm, which started late that night.
With shoppers well aware of the approaching storm, Ms. Converse said, stores were very busy Saturday. Many stores, she said, stayed closed the following day.
On one hand, Sunday’s snowstorm topped off a tough weather year; we endured a wet summer and bad weather for much of the year that tended to arrive just in time for weekends.
On the other, she said, retailers still stood a chance of capturing last-minute shopping business in the several days leading up to today’s holiday.
Scott Lajoie, executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, was heartened by the work performed by the town on Main Street sidewalks.
“Although the roads were still slow going much of the day Monday and parking spaces along the street were somewhat limited, thankfully they were able to get the north side sidewalk done before 10 AM,” Mr. Lajoie said in an e-mail to business district members. “And they were able to get most of the south side done by 3 PM. From my point of view out on the street this morning and compared to other areas of town (Route 132), it could've been a lot worse.”
He thanked merchants who had cut holes in the snowbanks lining the sidewalks so people parking their cars could avoid walking much in the street.
According to the National Weather Service, reported snowfall amounts ranged from 14 inches in Hyannis to 21.5 inches in Bourne to 6.9 inches in Chatham.
The weather service said sustained winds were reported as high as 38 miles per hour in Hyannis. Wind gusts were reported at 58 miles per hour in Marstons Mills and at 54 and 52 miles per hour in Hyannis.
While most people hunkered down Sunday to wait out the storm, a few were not going to let a little weather pin them down.
Mr. Ells told of coming across a car Sunday afternoon that was stuck sideways across North Street in Hyannis.
He asked the driver why he was out driving in the storm. The man replied he wanted a cup of coffee and a newspaper.
Leave a Reply
In order to comment you need to be logged in.