The Great Blizzard of 2013

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Snow totals exceeded – and in some cases, far exceeded – expectations. Take Hamden, CT, for example, where 40″ of snow fell in 24 hours. Bristol, CT received approximately 26″, though the measurement was taken at the end of the storm and some compression may have occurred. Not to mention, the winds drifted the snow and made it hard to find an area that hadn’t been blown around.

The Bristol measurement.
The Bristol measurement, a day after.

Meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan of NBC Connecticut dubbed this storm “The Great Blizzard of 2013.” I couldn’t think of a more appropriate name, so I’ll use the same.

Bristol's 1969 Walter snow blower clears Marsh Road on Saturday, February 9.
Bristol’s 1969 Walter snow blower clears a path on Marsh Road on Saturday, February 9.

Every single Connecticut county except Windham (closest to RI in NE CT) had at least one 30″+ report on the National Weather Service report pages.

Here are the 30″+ amounts in Connecticut:

   GLASTONBURY           33.5   326 PM  2/09  GENERAL PUBLIC
   MANCHESTER            32.0  1044 AM  2/09  HAM RADIO
   WEATOGUE              31.0  1012 AM  2/09  HAM RADIO
   NEWINGTON             30.0   724 PM  2/09  NONE
   HAMDEN                40.0   100 PM  2/09  PUBLIC
   MILFORD               38.0   615 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   CLINTONVILLE          37.0  1040 AM  2/09  SKYWARN SPOTTER
   OXFORD                36.2   600 AM  2/09  SKYWARN SPOTTER
   NORTH BRANFORD        36.0  1100 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   MERIDEN               36.0   200 PM  2/09  PUBLIC
   YALESVILLE            35.0   909 AM  2/09  SKYWARN SPOTTER
   WALLINGFORD           35.0   700 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   NEW HAVEN             34.3   600 AM  2/09  CT DOT
   WEST HAVEN            34.0  1040 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   NORTHFORD             33.5   950 AM  2/09  SKYWARN SPOTTER
   WOLCOTT               33.0   457 AM  2/09  SKYWARN SPOTTER
   EAST HAVEN            33.0  1005 AM  2/09  SKYWARN SPOTTER
   GUILFORD              33.0  1113 AM  2/09  BROADCAST MEDIA
   NORTH GUILFORD        32.0   900 AM  2/09  SKYWARN SPOTTER
   WATERBURY             32.0   900 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   MADISON               32.0   321 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   NAUGATUCK             30.0   600 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   COVENTRY              32.5  1143 AM  2/09  TRAINED SPOTTER
   STAFFORDVILLE         31.4   100 PM  2/09  NWS COOP
   TOLLAND               30.5   914 AM  2/09  GENERAL PUBLIC
   FAIRFIELD             35.0  1000 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   STRATFORD             33.0  1030 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   MONROE                30.0   900 AM  2/09  SKYWARN SPOTTER
   BRIDGEPORT            30.0   658 AM  2/09  COOP OBSERVER
   EAST HADDAM           35.5   845 AM  2/09  PUBLIC
   OLD SAYBROOK          30.0  1200 PM  2/09  CT DOT
   COLCHESTER            31.0  1200 PM  2/09  CT DOT
   NEW HARTFORD          33.0  1044 AM  2/09  SPOTTER

This storm crippled the City of Bristol, and for that matter, the whole state. And region. While the October 2011 snowstorm is still #1 in terms of overall impact, this modern-day storm rivals the Blizzard of 1978.

Many of Bristol’s plows were crippled in the heart of the storm. The City relies heavily on contractors to support its own plow trucks. Nowadays, most contractors use small pickups. With snowfall rates approaching 4″ and 5″ per hour at the height of the storm, these small trucks were unable to push the substantial accumulations. Many broke down or became stranded, including the fairly new City-owned 10-wheel International pictured below.

In the Blizzard of 1978, many more contractors operated heavy duty trucks, more like the 6- and 10-wheel City trucks of today. Still, cleanup took days.

A fairly new 10-wheel International plow sits abandoned on Minor Road after the storm on Saturday, February 9.
A fairly new 10-wheel International plow sits abandoned on Minor Road after the storm on Saturday, February 9.

In an email to Bristol City Councilors obtained by The Bristol Press, Public Works Director Walter Veselka said “Please understand that the storm we went through yesterday through mid-day today [Friday, Feb. 8 to Saturday, Feb. 9] is unlike any the City has experienced since the February storm in 1978.” He went on to say “By 2 a.m. [Saturday, Feb. 9] we had emergency vehicles and our own vehicles becoming stuck in the snow in such a fashion that I was spending more time pulling out our own resources than we were able to spend opening up streets.”

The official Facebook page for the Department of Public Works has been staying in communication with residents. A message was sent out Saturday to anxious residents to explain the absence of plows from the roads. It read, in part, “We have had more equipment stuck and inoperable than we have had available to do snow removal work.”

Veselka, in the same Saturday email obtained by The Bristol Press, told City Councilors that “We should have all streets opened to at least one travel lane my mid-morning tomorrow [Sunday morning, Feb. 10].” As of 9:30pm Sunday, multiple sources confirmed to me this goal had yet to be met. NBC Connecticut’s Dianna Russini was in town Sunday evening and reported that Mayor Arthur Ward told her at least a single path should be clear on all roads by Sunday evening. Everyone can only hope that all roads have at least an access path before Monday rolls around, but only time will tell if Ward’s estimate is correct.

Veselka’s email provided additional insight to my knowledge that the City of Bristol has 3 airport-style snow blowers, 1 grader, and other heavy equipment. These peaces of equipment are the only pieces capable of fully clearing the roads at this point. The snow blower fleet is led by a venerable 1969 Walter, a front-end loader-mounted blower, and a 3rd which is presumably also loader-mounted. Bristol used to operate a 1961 Oshkosh similar to the Walter, but Mark Redman confirmed to me Sunday evening that the City sold it about a year ago. He also said while its no longer in the City’s hands, it remains in the area.

The snow blowers were last put to heavy road use in January of 2011. The relatively small fleet of blowers, a grader, and other heavy equipment is precisely why the cleanup process is taking so long.

The 1969 Walter roars westbound on Marsh Road Saturday, February 9.
The 1969 Walter roars westbound on Marsh Road Saturday, February 9.

Jonathan Jankoski sent in several videos, including this one taken near the intersection of Aldbourne Road and Treble Road on Chippens Hill.

Sleet, freezing rain, and rain will impact Connecticut on Monday. The precipitation will be light – not more than .25″ of liquid will fall – but it will have consequences. The rain will soak into the snow like water soaks into a sponge. The rain won’t be enough to wash the snow away. Thus, when the rain-soaked snow pack freezes in the nights thereafter, it will be nearly impossible to move. Even for the City snowblowers. This poses a significant problem given that the vast majority of roads only have a single path cleared. It will be tougher to fully open the roads after Monday’s storm, though highs in the 40s this week should help some.

Roads in Nelson Farm only have a skinny path. Taken at sunset on Sunday, February 10.

Schools are cancelled on Monday, and for good reason. Schools are low on the list of importance, especially when roads remain unclear and emergency access is a top priority. Here is what Edgewood School’s parking lot looked like Sunday.

The parking lot remains unplowed at Edgewood School.
The parking lot remains unplowed at Edgewood School.

So, was this an official blizzard? That requires 3 or more consecutive hours of 1/4 visibility or less AND sustained winds or frequent gusts over 35mph. Automated stations report multiple times per hour, so I’ve loosened the definition a bit. If some observations came in below blizzard criteria BUT were among at least one blizzard observation in an hour, that hour counted towards the 3 or more hours of required consecutive observations. More than 15 stations in southern New England verified as an official blizzard, but only 3 in Connecticut met the criteria. New Haven, Bridgeport, and Oxford verified as an official blizzard.

While that may seem like a let down given the historic amounts of snow that fell, get this: a new 24-hour snow record was broken. 31.4″ fell at Staffordville, CT in less than 24 hours. The old record was 28.0″ set in Middletown, CT way back in…get ready…1897! 2/9/14 EDIT: Ansonia set the 24-hour CT snowfall record with 36″. This cooperative snowfall report was delayed, but confirmed by NCDC in late April 2013.

This storm will go down in the books right next to the Blizzard of 1978. And, as I said after Hurricane Sandy, this was a storm that makes kids want to be meteorologists when they grow up.

2 Responses

  1. Bill Syrett
    | Reply

    I enjoyed the storm report and the rest of your web page. But, where’s the 482 material?? If I missed it, let me know! Have a good summer with Brad. -B

    • Tyler Jankoski
      | Reply

      Hi Bill,

      Hover over the “Experience” tab and click on the “Work” link that shows up underneath it.

      Enjoy your summer too!


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