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Record snowfall busting Fairfield’s budget

Published 1:44 pm, Thursday, January 27, 2011

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  • Alex and Lauren Bratton walk through the snow with their grandmother, Arlene Poucher towards the water at Jennings Beach in Fairfield, Conn. on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011. Photo: Cathy Zuraw / Connecticut Post
    Alex and Lauren Bratton walk through the snow with their grandmother, Arlene Poucher towards the water at Jennings Beach in Fairfield, Conn. on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011. Photo: Cathy Zuraw

 

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The latest major snow storm to wallop Fairfield and southwestern Connecticut eased early Thursday, but not before the two-part storm inundated the region with a heavy, wet blanket at least 15 inches deep -- pushing the January snowfall total over the record and creating havoc with the morning's rush-hour travel and crippling business, government and schools.

The overnight snowfall was fierce, coming down at rates of 3 to 4 inches an hour, and when the whiteout cleared by later morning, the snowfall total for January was nearly 42 inches so far, surpassing the region's previous record for the month of approximately 26 inches.

Interstate 95 was shut down by tractor-trailer accidents in Fairfield, Darien, Bridgeport and Branford at various points through the morning.

Service on Metro-North Railroad was also suspended about 4:30 a.m. and remained shut down until limited service on the New Haven Line resumed at 9 a.m.

Fairfield public and parochial schools were closed again for the day.

The snow stopped falling across the region by about 7 a.m., and the skies cleared. Daytime high temperatures are expected to reach the mid-30s. Tonight, clouds move in and the low will be about 20 degrees.

The National Weather Service, however, says that more, light snow could be in the offing for Friday and Saturday, and even more is possible Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

With the latest heavy snowfall, it looks as though the only thing that will be melting any time soon is Fairfield's snow-removal budget.

In total, the town had budgeted $420,000 to cover overtime costs for 2010-11, materials and private contractors, according to Department of Public Works Director Richard White. So far -- and this doesn't include the two most recent storms -- $450,000 has been expended.

"So, we're already $30,000 in the hole at this point," White said Thursday.

The town plans to apply for FEMA aid to help pay for the cleanup from the big storm of Jan. 11-12.

Fire Department officials are appealing to residents for help clearing snow around fire hydrants in front of their homes.

Fire officials on Thursday said department staff are clearing as many hydrants as possible, but with hundreds in town, the critical task could be completed more quickly if residents who are able help.

Town plows and sanding trucks were on town roads all day Wednesday clearing snow from the first part of the storm, said Scott Bartlett, the DPW superintendent. He said crews took breaks in shifts throughout the day, but everyone was back on the job at 1 a.m. Thursday "for what we hope to be a final clean up."

By later Thursday morning, Fairfield's main roads were in very good condition, Bartlett said, though he added that officials stay off the roads to allow clean up to continue unimpeded. Those main roads were cleared around 4 a.m. and then crews turned their attention to the town's side roads, a job that takes longer because of parked cars and residents' complaints about the plows dumping snow back into their driveways.

And people, believe it or not, still called the town garage to complain that their street wasn't cleared first thing Thursday. "You try to explain it to people," said Patti Finch, who was in at 6:20 a.m. fielding those angry calls.

Once the streets were plowed Bartlett said the plan of attack switched to clearing snow from sidewalks in densely developed areas like Grasmere and the town center. The snow gets loaded into dump trucks and deposited at sites like Jennings Beach and Kiwanis Field on Old Dam Road.

Crews from the town's Department of Public Works plowed, sanded and salted streets from Wednesday morning during the first part of the storm and have been deployed again early today.

Staff writer Genevieve Reilly contributed to this report.