Early snow leaves plenty of room for guesswork

Tim Cook/The Day Motorists proceed cautiously as they cross the Gold Star Memorial Bridge over the Thames River during Tuesday's snowstorm.

Before winter had even officially begun, the third snowstorm of the year led Linda Davis to fine-tune the rules of her annual snowfall guessing game.

The popularity of Davis' Ledyard and Gales Ferry Community Forum on Facebook has grown rapidly for its utility as a place to confer during weather events. Town officials, school bus drivers and parents alike are among the 1,398 members, who use it to make announcements, promote local fundraisers, share news and recommend a good plumber.

Discussion of school closures and road conditions can be found during a storm, but also a bit of fun.

Davis began the game last winter "just as a lark," she said, posting a challenge to predict how much snow would fall on her back deck on Inchcliffe Drive during the first storm of the season.

When it snowed "like every other day," she said, Davis continued to post the challenge, which proved popular, downsizing her reward to small gift cards to local restaurants — "No trips to the Bahamas," she said. But more and more people still returned to place their bets, dozens of them, with multiple decimal places.

"I don't think they care what the prize is," she said. "They're just so doggone competitive."

The need for a tiebreaker was averted after this past weekend's halfhearted storm, which left behind just some slush piled short. Only one person lowballed her guess enough.

But with about 75 eager entries for Davis' latest challenge, she tossed in a few more rules. You can name an amount previously guessed. One entry per person. You must add a letter of the alphabet for a possible tiebreaker. The love of decimal places and the inexact science of measuring snow with a 12-inch wooden ruler means winners may be between numbers — then the tiebreaker comes in. And if the accumulation isn't worth starting a snow blower, the game is off.

Davis' husband, Earl, an engineer, will take the official measurement today —"He's much more exact than I would be," she said — as temperatures begin to rise steadily for the rest of the week and melt the evidence.

Gary Lessor, meteorologist for the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University, said Thursday's high of 41 degrees will jump to 50 degrees Friday and Saturday, peaking at 53 degrees on Sunday, with overnight lows above freezing from Friday through the weekend.

This milder weather comes after a particularly cold December, Lessor said – 5 and 6 degrees colder than the average high of 42 and low of 28. To have three storms before the official start of winter is unusual, he said.

Lessor said cold air will return to the region Christmas Eve, but any chance of snow will take place after the holiday.

Snowfall began to abate across the state around 6 p.m. Tuesday. As of 7 p.m., 2¼ inches of snow had fallen in Old Saybrook and Colchester, 2 inches in Groton and Putnam, and 1 inch in Norwich.

The highest accumulation recorded in the state at that time was 4.7 inches in Windsor Locks.

State and local police said they kept busy Tuesday with a number of spinouts and fender-benders, with at least one rollover, but reported no major accidents that involved serious injuries.

The southbound side of Interstate 95 in Groton was briefly closed to all traffic at about 4:20 p.m. as state police responded to reports of a crash that involved a downed light pole. Another crash at 6:30 p.m. on the southbound side of I-95 in North Stonington, between Exits 93 and 92, led to the closure of one lane while emergency responders attended to a one-car crash.

a.isaacs@theday.com

Staff writer Greg Smith contributed to this report.

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