November 22, 2014
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City readies for more snow, street widening comes next
John Howell and Jessica A. Botelho
Photo by Christina Markrush
AN IGLOO FOR BEETHOVEN: Christina Markrush of Warwick Neck built an igloo, which her dog Beethoven hangs out in. While the snow can be an inconvenience, she said it's important to remember to have some fun with it.

It was back to business yesterday, although Mother Nature was less than cooperative and threatening to send more snow by Thursday.

“It’s all hands on deck,” David Picozzi, director of Public Works, said Monday morning.

DPW crews had pretty much been on duty since the snow started to fly Friday. Sunday offered a respite, and some time to clear storm drains for yesterday’s warmer weather and rain. But, with 10 trucks down and equipment failures too numerous to count, there was no time to linger.

“We’re trying to get ready for Thursday,” Picozzi said.

Sunday afternoon, the administration decided not to widen roads any farther, which would have pushed snow back into driveways that had already been cleared. Better to extend the parking ban, open intersections and hope Monday’s rain will reduce the snow.

On other fronts, the emphasis was on restoring power, opening municipal services – with the library, pool and rinks all open yesterday – and preparing for schools to re-open. The decision was made Monday afternoon that schools would reopen at their regular time on Tuesday.

As for sidewalks, an issue raised by several callers, Picozzi said that would have to come later.

“It’s going to be very difficult to do sidewalks,” he said, “and to ask people to do it [themselves] now is just too much.”

David Graves, a spokesperson for National Grid, said approximately 20,000 customers were without power as of noon yesterday. But, he said, crews were moving along at a good pace, and he expected that all power would be restored by midnight Monday. As of Monday morning, 1,455 Warwick customers, mostly in the vicinities of Kilvert Street and Narragansett Parkway, were still without power. Power was restored to Winman Junior High School Sunday night. Winman was the last of the schools to regain power. Even so, the department made the decision not to open schools Monday.

Graves, who lives in Barrington, lost power in his home during the storm. It was restored at about noon on Sunday. While he’s been working 12- to 14-hour days since Saturday, his crews have been putting in 18 hours a day, and he commended the workers.

“They are really putting in the hours and the effort to get this job done,” he said. “They are very highly-skilled and well-trained, and take tremendous satisfaction in getting power restored to the customers.”

Peter Frazier, acting director of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, was lucky.

A resident of the Edgewood section of Cranston, Frazier said the lights flickered but he never lost power. He explained that, while the airport never technically closes, there was a period during the storm that runways were unusable. Around mid-day on Sunday, the runways were back in operation.

“We essentially lost two full days,” he said, noting lost income from landing fees, parking revenues, concession sales and the like.

“But safety is a priority,” he said, saying they need to take these events in stride and trust the airlines to make the appropriate decisions.

“With the blowing snow and the temperatures, it was a particularly challenging storm,” Frazier said. “In any event, I’m very pleased with the performance of the 30 members of the snow crew who worked around the clock, from the time the first flurry flew to well after the storm.”

After clearing runways, taxiways, aprons and ramps, attention was focused on freeing parked cars.

In response to power outages, Vets High School was opened as a shelter. Seven people spent the night there Saturday. It was closed Monday.

Rosemary Wade, who lives in the Greenwood area, said she was without power and her home was bitterly cold. She had been without power since Friday.

“It was just absolutely, positively freezing,” she said. “I heard this was open on the radio and I said, ‘I’ve got to go there.’”

Despite her frustration, she thanked the Red Cross staff for accommodating her. She was also grateful for her family members for offering to house her.

“I love the snow and how pretty it is, but I hate the consequences,” she said.

And there were others who took delight in the snow.

“I had enough snow on my deck that I was able to make a snowman,” said Doris Witt, a resident of Sparrows Point, yesterday.

“In New England, we’re fortunate to experience all four seasons, but the only downside is driving in it,” Christina Markrush of Warwick Neck said. “Everyone is complaining that the gym is closed, but you can work out right outside. Suck it up and have some fun. You create your own happiness.”

Former Councilmen John DelGiudice and Ray Gallucci said while they are no longer elected officials, residents still reach out to them. DelGiudice said he helped as much as he could, and spoke to Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur to let him know about people in need.

Gratefully, DelGiudice said, he never lost power, and brought his generator to a neighbor’s home where they were without electricity. He also used his snow blower to plow out his driveway and a few neighbors’.

“Thank God for snow blowers and generators,” he said, noting that he cleared city drains in front of his home.

Gallucci also plowed six driveways within the last few days. He said he plowed his own, as well as the driveway of his brother, Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci, plus a few family members and neighbors.

He said the city did a great job.

Planning and a well-informed public that adhered to the governor’s travel ban appeared to have saved the city and the state from a replay of the Blizzard of 1978. As happened in ’78, with winds exceeding 60 mph and a snowfall of at least three inches an hour, there was an extended period where snow-clearing equipment and crews couldn’t keep up with the storm.

“The meteorological information was there,” said Col. Steven McCartney, who remembers all too well the horror of ’78 when he was a member of the Providence Police force.

“It was the most horrific situation I’ve seen in my life,” he said, describing how city streets had to be cleared of 3,300 abandoned cars, with some containing the bodies of people who had died from their own vehicles’ exhaust.

McCartney said this storm seemed to match the intensity of ’78, although, thankfully, it didn’t pack as much snow. Seventeen inches was recorded at Green Airport, compared to the more than 30 for ’78. In preparation, McCartney scheduled the second and third shifts to come in earlier than usual the day of the storm.

Picozzi employed a similar tactic, with the added measure of strategically positioning equipment so that it would be on station when needed. In addition, he arranged for four pay-loaders from D’Ambra’s and Cardi’s construction companies to assist.

“Those were good tactical decisions,” Avedisian said Monday. He called the pay-loaders “a huge addition.”

The immediate concerns, he said, were clearing drains and safely re-opening schools. Longer range, he sees the benefit from establishing locations where plow crews could get a break from the elements and from improved communications. While Twitter, Facebook and the Internet and broadcast media were used to keep people informed, Avedisian said not everyone knew what was happening or what to expect.


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