Malloy tours snow-shrouded Stonington

Stonington — Accompanied by town and borough officials, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy trudged through snow-covered Water Street in the borough Wednesday afternoon to get an up-close look at the effects the blizzard had on the town.

Malloy stopped and chatted with residents as heavy equipment continued to remove snow that buried cars and made narrow side streets barely passable.

As the tour ended, borough Warden Jeff Callahan wished Malloy good luck in seeking federal disaster aid to reimburse communities for the money they spent on the storm.

“We’ll do our best,” Malloy promised him.

A few minutes earlier at a press conference at the police station, Malloy said it was too early to estimate the financial impact of the storm but added that meeting the requirements to obtain federal aid is difficult.

“We’ll put our argument together and survey our towns by county to see if we meet the threshold for expenses,” he said. “We’ll figure out if we have a shot at a (federal disaster) declaration and if we do, we’ll submit the paperwork.”

Callahan said the borough will exhaust its entire snow removal budget on just this storm, while First Selectman George Crouse has said he expects the town to spend as much as $100,000 — about half of what it had left in its snow removal budget.

“We’ll pray there’s no more snow,” Callahan said.

Malloy said he wanted to come to the part of the state hardest hit by the blizzard to see the impact himself. He said that every time the state deals with a storm it learns something that helps it respond to the next one.

“We get better at this every time,” he said.

Malloy said that it was a “vital call” to impose a travel ban at 9 p.m. Monday as it allowed crews to clear roads and prevented accidents.

“On the way down here today I noticed what a fantastic job we’ve done on the highways,” he said. “Even the breakdown lanes were clear, not just the travel lanes.”

Malloy said he was “surprised and pleased” by the lack of power outages during the storm, attributing it to the lightweight snow and the extensive tree trimming efforts along highways and roads across the state.

Crouse said late Wednesday afternoon that town highway crews had now gone home after working since before the storm began and will return to work at 7 a.m. today. He said primary and secondary roads in town are in good shape, but tertiary roads still have snow on them.

Stonington schools will reopen today as planned. In the announcement on its website Wednesday afternoon, the school system said a “big thank you” goes out to the Connecticut National Guard, town highway department and school maintenance staff for removing snow so the schools can reopen as planned after a two-day closure.

The town had problems clearing the school lots after snow removal equipment broke down on Tuesday. But it then requested help from the Connecticut National Guard, which sent personnel and massive backhoes and dump trucks from the 192nd Engineering Battalion to help clear the lots. National Guard members were at Mystic Middle School and Deans Mill School early Wednesday morning working to clear the snow. By about 2 p.m. in the afternoon, much of the lots had been cleared.

Superintendent of Schools Van Riley said Wednesday it would take a few more days to totally clear all the lots and walkways of snow.

After Malloy departed, Callahan said borough residents have been very cooperative in getting their cars off the main streets of the borough. He said outside contractors and heavy equipment have been brought in to help the borough’s two-person highway crew, who worked 31 straight hours, remove the snow.

“People are going to have to be a little patient,” he said. “I’ve had few calls (from residents) but people have been very understanding that this was truly a historic storm.”

j.wojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @joewojtas

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