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West Hartford Prepares for Major Snowstorm [Updated]

Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

A parking ban goes into effect on Friday evening as the Town of West Hartford prepares to deal with a major snowstorm. [Updated, Jan. 30, 11:45 a.m.]

By Ronni Newton

Updated, Sunday, Jan. 30, 11:45 a.m.

The West Hartford Department of Public Works announced Sunday morning that the parking ban would be lifted at noon. Motorists are still urged to use caution as crews continue to clean up from the storm, and widen roadways to the curb.

In a message on Twitter, DPW thanked residents for the high level of compliance with the on-street parking ban for the duration of the storm.

Original story

On Friday morning, with the possibility of a significant snowstorm that’s had New England meteorologists throwing around an eight-letter b-word (blizzard) seemingly poised to materialize, West Hartford Public Works Director John Phillips has issued a parking ban, and preparations for the weather event are well underway.

The parking ban begins at 8 p.m. Friday, and will remain in effect until further notice, Phillips said. He understands that it’s Friday night, however, and said those who are parking on the street for transient purposes, such as eating in a local restaurant or attending the show at Playhouse on Park, shouldn’t worry.

“Our focus is on residential neighborhoods,” Phillips said. “Because there has been so much uncertainty with this storm we don’t want people to get comfortable with on-street parking and then have to move their car at 5 a.m.”

The Town of West Hartford sent out alerts through its list-serve and Everbridge emergency notification system on Thursday, even before the parking ban was announced, urging residents to think in advance about where they will park their vehicles during the snow.

Beginning the parking ban at 8 p.m. Friday gives the enforcement team a chance to ensure that streets will be accessible to plows. “We’ve had a lot of on-street parking,” Phillips said, and he fears there will be streets they won’t be able to get down.

West Hartford’s overnight parking ban was suspended last spring, but will be reinstated as of Feb. 1. Many more residents have gotten accustomed to parking on the street overnight.

Even if the plows can get through, vehicles parked along town streets cause plows to create a berm, which will freeze with the expected cold temperatures in the wake of the storm, leading to the formation of dangerous “icebergs” in the roadways, Phillips said. “We’re going to tow cars,” he said, to avoid that situation.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning – not just a “Watch” – for the 24-hour period beginning at 12 a.m. Jan. 29. Heavy snow is expected to fall, with winds gusting as high as 45 mph or more.

Phillips said crews are planning for a formidable snowstorm, the most the town has had in the past several years.

“We’re looking at the higher end. We’ve got to plan for the worst,” he said. The forecasts he’s been using indicate 8-20 inches of snow are likely for West Hartford, but if the town gets caught in a heavier snow band, it could be more.

West Hartford resident John Lyons, who has become known for his accurate local weather forecasts posted in the Facebook group “Neighbors and Friends in West Hartford,” said he thinks the town could get 20 inches of fluffy snow.

Advance preparations are underway, Phillips said.

“We’ll go out and do our pre-treating,” Phillips said, so initial snowfall will melt on contact, but Public Works crews are expecting an extensive plowing operation to be needed.

“Once we get to more than an inch an hour we lose our streets,” Phillips said. Then it takes hours to get them back. Plow routes are prioritized to focus initially on the arterial (main) roadways, and the smallest streets, typically dead ends and culdesacs, are the last to be cleared.

All available staff will be ready, he said, and all contractors are on notice, but the timing is critical.

“We don’t want to start too early because we know this will be a multi-day event,” said Phillips, who expects plowing to continue into Sunday morning. Because it’s the weekend, the quality of life should be back to normal before the regular work week begins, he said.

“My advice is to stay home,” Lyons said, cautioning anyone who is considering plans for Saturday. “This is going to be a rough one and even a slight change in track could further influence the impact to our area – and it’s already going to be a big one.”

Parking ban

Parking bans are needed to keep roadways free of vehicles so that Public Works crews are able to plow the snow from curb-to-curb, and cars parked on the road create safety hazards.

Owners who do not heed the parking ban will be fined, and the car may be towed.

During a parking ban, residents can park in off-street lots, including schools as long as they are closed.

Those using surface lots are asked to park next to other cars – rather than leaving parking spaces between them – to assist Public Works in effectively clearing those areas.

Regular fees will be in effect at municipal lots and parking garages.

Motorists may register their plates using one of the kiosks inside a the parking garage or can use either the Flowbird or Passport Parking mobile app.

Enforcement

Cars left parked on the street during a parking ban will be ticketed, and may be towed. West Hartford Police will be assisting Public Works to keep the roads clear of illegally parked vehicles.

Snow removal contractors are reminded not to push snow from driveways and private parking lots into the street.

Sidewalks

Per town ordinance, West Hartford property owners are responsible for removing snow and ice from the sidewalk along their property line within 12 hours after the storm or by sunrise – whichever is later. Residents are required to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice.

It’s particularly important to keep heavily-used sidewalks – those near schools, public buildings, and commercial areas – free and clear. Snow clearing violations should be reported to the West Hartford Police Department at 860-523-5203.

Trash Collection

The collection of trash and recycling by Paine’s Inc. is expected to remain on schedule.

Hydrants

Residents are also asked to help out the West Hartford Fire Department and keep the community safe by shoveling the area around fire hydrants.

Closings

The town has announced the closure of the following facilities on Saturday, Jan. 29:

  • Veterans Memorial Ice Skating Rink
  • Cornerstone Aquatics Center
  • All public library branches

In addition, the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) has announced that both of its local reservoir recreation areas, Farmington Avenue and Reservoir #6 off Albany Avenue, will be closed on Saturday, Jan. 29 and Sunday, Jan. 30.

Highway tractor trailer ban and other transportation schedule changes

Connecticut highways will be closed to tractor trailer trucks beginning 6 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, as the region braces for what Gov. Ned Lamont said he is expecting to be a “wicked” snow storm.

“No tractor trailers on the roads. Period. Get them off the roads,” Lamont said during a press conference Friday morning, as reported by CTNewsJunkie.com. Neighboring states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island would be enacting similar bans, he said. “I think you know the reason why: they gotta be able to get the snow plows through. They don’t need anybody slowing things up. We also have to be able to get emergency vehicles wherever they’ve got to go.”

Amtrak has announced plans to suspend service for the day Saturday, and MetroNorth plans to limit its service. Transportation updates can be found on the website cttravelsmart.org.

Check back regularly with We-Ha.com for updates and storm-related news.

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