Storm cleanup complicated by rain, freezing temperatures

Jan 5, 2018

The snow from Dartmouth’s first Nor’easter of the new year might have stopped falling, but the storm timeline and below freezing temperatures are creating a mess on roadways that could continue into the weekend.

Although snowfall totals fell short of initial projections, with 4.9 inches of snow reported in South Dartmouth and 8.4 inches in New Bedford, according to the National Weather Service measurements - the timing and freezing temperatures are making cleanup difficult, according to Department of Public Works Director David Hickox.

In advance of most winter storms, DPW crews pre-treat roads with salt and a special brine. Once the storm is over, the mixture makes it easier for crews to clear roads down to bare pavement. Although some pre-treatment was done, the storm’s beginning as rain rendered usual precautions ineffective.

“The salt pretreatments put down got washed away,” Hickox said. “With the sudden temperature drop the salt is not very effective in this cold.”

The result is roads which still contain a slippery layer of icy snow on them. Hickox said crews will likely have a long weekend of work in store before roads are fully cleared.

The storm itself was a challenge for DPW crews as well. Forty pieces of equipment were on the road, but drivers faced breakdowns due to minor issues like hydraulic lines freezing. Several plows were reported to be stuck as well.

Crews are also still working to open up side roads completely. During the storm, crews focus on opening up side streets enough for emergency vehicles to pass through, and do an additional pass to fully clear the roads of snow. That may result in some snow ending up in driveways, as it’s an unavoidable reality in fully clearing roads, Hickox said.

Emergency responders report a relatively quiet storm. Dartmouth Police Det. Kyle Costa said the department only responded to several minor crashes and several reports of wires down.

"I think people heeded the warnings and stayed home," Costa said, adding that more people at home means less traffic on the roads.

Dartmouth Fire District No. 2 had no major calls and only a few reports of downed utility lines.

Fire District No. 1 responded to a total of four calls, according to Chief Brad Ellis. In advance of the storm, firefighters remained at the station overnight and staffing was bumped up to quickly respond to calls.

No power lines were reported down, but Ellis said there were cable and telephone lines reported down caused by vehicles striking the sagging lines. Crews also responded to check on a person who had not been heard from in several days, who was fine.

Ellis stressed the importance of checking on neighbors, and not just at the height of a major storm, clearing ice and snow off of sidewalks and stairs, and the danger posed by ice and hazardous driving conditions.

“Stay off the roads,” Ellis said. “If you don’t need to be out, don’t.”

For those who do venture out, Dartmouth police warn to use caution when approaching intersections. Traffic lights are difficult to see due to buildups of snow and ice.