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Storm puts region on hold

Unless you have to work today, you might not want to rush out to shovel or fire up the snowblower.

Schools, municipal meetings and a long list of events have been canceled. Trash won't be picked up. If you live in East Lyme, you'll need to hold on to your Christmas tree until next week.

In New London, all nonessential city offices will close at 12:30 p.m. Acting City Manager Ron Samul is urging residents to postpone any business they may need to conduct at City Hall until Thursday, when normal business hours are expected to resume.

In many other towns, municipal offices will not open at all today. Parking bans are in effect in most towns.

High school athletic events scheduled for today will be held Thursday in most cases.

About a foot of snow was forecast to have fallen overnight, with another foot possible during the day, according to forecasters at the National Weather Service station in Upton, N.Y. Those numbers could change drastically depending on the storm's path.

Visibility will be about a quarter of a mile today, with winds expected to be between 10 and 20 mph.

The winter storm warning is scheduled to be in place until 6 tonight.

Town and state crews began preparing for the storm on Tuesday. New London's public works crews were sent home at 4 p.m. and advised to get some rest. They were expected to be back on the job Tuesday night to start plowing snow.

"Our goal is to have every street in the city remain black," Keith Chapman, head of the public works department, said Tuesday.

Chapman said he's confident the crews will keep the roadways clear, especially routes from the highway to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital. What he's worried about is what this storm, the third one in the past week, will do to the public works budget and the toll it will take on his crews.

"It's not the depth of the snow,'' he said. "It's the frequency of [the storms] that concerns me."

Bringing a sleeping bag

On Tuesday afternoon, Stonington Director of Public Works Joe Bragaw knew he and his men were facing up to 30 straight hours of work. While plow crews will sleep in their trucks, Bragaw pointed to the closet in his Town Hall office. Stuffed inside was a sleeping bag.

"I'll be staying here the whole time," he said.

Bragaw said 19 employees and a supervisor will be on duty until all the streets are cleared. Each driver is responsible for clearing six to 10 miles of road.

The storm could almost deplete the $60,000 that remains in the town's $120,000 storm budget for 2011-12, Bragaw said.

"This storm will cost a lot of money," he said. "Our guys could be in for 24 hours or more."

Helping the town's budget is the fact that some of the crews' work will be done during normal shifts today. The rest will be logged as overtime.

Bragaw said the town received some salt on Tuesday and has ordered 450 more tons. In storms such as this, he said, the town can use 150 tons at a cost of about $12,000.

The town uses the salt judiciously, putting it down before the snow falls and when it stops, Bragaw said. The only exceptions are on steep hills and intersections, where it may be applied more frequently.

Bragaw said the main objective of his crews are to keep at least one lane open on all roads for emergency vehicles during the storm. They fully clear the roads once the snow stops. He said his crews sleep as much as needed to safely operate their trucks.

Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek said he plans to partially open the town's emergency operations center today at 9 a.m.

Asking for patience

Waterford First Selectman Daniel Steward is asking residents to be patient while crews clear the roads. He is also reminding residents and those traveling to drive slowly during winter weather.

Norwich emergency officials attended a conference-call session with officials at the National Weather Service Tuesday afternoon. Emergency Management Director Gene Arters said the Rose City Senior Center is on standby if needed as an emergency shelter.

Norwich Public Utilities will have crews on standby in case of power failures, utility General Manager John Bilda said.

Haiti events rescheduled

Two events scheduled for tonight in Norwich to mark the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti are among the events that will be rescheduled.

The Day of Remembrance is now slated for Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Slater Auditorium at Norwich Free Academy. The event will feature Haitian music, speeches, personal testimonials and information about a new fundraising effort by the First Haitian Baptist Church of Norwich.

While the event is postponed, the church will launch its new fundraiser, "35 Seconds for Haiti," today, exactly one year after the massive earthquake struck.

The nonprofit fund is designed to aid in Haiti's rebuilding, with a special focus on the people who live in cities and towns along a 35-mile stretch from Port-au-Prince to Petit-Goâve.

The fundraiser's website will be launched today at www.35secondsforHaiti.org, which features a two-minute video on Haiti. The drive seeks one-time or monthly donations of $35. Organizers invite supporters to share the video on Facebook for 35 hours.

For more information, call (860) 861-4246 or e-mail adambowles@notwithink.com.

A second anniversary event, which also will launch a new local fund drive for Haiti, has been postponed to Monday at the La Famille de L'Eglise de Dieu Inc. Church, 63 Church St., Norwich.

The service will be held from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and will include a prayer service and Haitian songs performed by local artists. The event will launch a new fundraiser sponsored by the Bethany Foundation of Norwich to support educational efforts in Haiti.

For information, visit www.thenewbethany.org.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

c.bessette@theday.com

j.wojtas@theday.com

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