Despite some confusion over its name, there was no mistaking that the weekend snowstorm dropped record-breaking amounts of snow on Trumbull.
The blizzard, called Winter Storm Nemo or Charlotte by various weather and news services, dumped 34 inches of snow on Trumbull from Friday morning into Saturday. The snow caused schools to close for three days and closed some streets for the entire weekend.
In preparation for the storm, First Selectman Timothy Herbst banned on-street parking beginning Friday and ending Saturday afternoon. But the snowfall was 50% more than “worst case” scenarios, forcing the extension of the ban into Tuesday.
Public Works Director John Marsilio said the depth of the snow, up to 50 inches in some drifts, forced the town to double up on plows.
“The snow was so deep we had to pair the trucks and drivers,” Marsilio said. “The trucks would plow together and when one got stuck the other would pull it out.”
That system worked to a point, but some places in town were so buried that heavy construction payloaders had to come in and haul both trucks out of snowbanks, Marsilio said.
With cleanup lasting for nearly six days, Public Works employees grabbed food and sleep when and where they could. The town garage resembled a shelter, with workers sleeping on cots and couches. Others hitched rides on plows, getting dropped off as near their homes as possible before trekking the remaining distance.
In addition to the labor cost in clearing the snow, Marsilio said, the town went through 5,000 tons of sand and another 2,000 tons of salt. The snow, initially light and fluffy, did not require much road treatment. Later, though, heavy fog and warm temperatures Saturday and Sunday compacted the snow. As water streamed off snowbanks and froze overnight, crews poured salt on the roads to melt the ice.
Unlike in other towns that suffered equipment failures, Trumbull’s vehicles came through the storm relatively unscathed. Marsilio said broken plow blades and some ruptured hoses were the extent of damage to the plowing fleet.
“Two years ago, the town invested in new plow trucks to replace some of the older vehicles,” he said. “As a result, we didn’t have the catastrophic engine and transmission failures that some other towns had.”
The new equipment also resulted in better cleanup than the last comparable storm, the Blizzard of ’78. Marsilio was running a private contracting company at the time and said his construction equipment helped clear snow from the storm 35 years ago.
“The conditions were remarkably similar, in terms of snowfall and 40-degree temperatures the following day,” he said. “But the better equipment and better planning that towns adopted after that storm meant that we were more prepared for this storm.”
Equipment and planning aside, Marsilio said, the town owed a debt of gratitude to the workers who toiled for days under the most demanding conditions he could remember and got Trumbull roads and schools opened as quickly as possible.
“The town bought the trucks and I wrote the plan, but it was the guys in the trucks who really got it done,” he said. “I am incredibly proud of what they accomplished. We did as well as anyone, and better than most.”