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New London, region brace for another round of snow

New London — Like an unwanted guest who shows up late and then won’t leave, winter continues to torment the region, with forecasts calling for snow and freezing rain that could disrupt Monday’s start of the workweek.

A storm watch for the entire state, except the immediate shoreline, was to begin at 3 p.m. today and remain in effect until 1 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University. Precipitation that began overnight was expected to continue intermittently today, amounting to an inch or two — with periods of heavy snowfall possible Monday.

AccuWeather, the global weather information service, reported Saturday that a series of storms could bring light snow to New York state and New England through tonight. It predicted the snow would fall more steadily from late tonight to Monday night, dumping from 6 to 12 inches inland.

The National Weather Service forecast for southeastern Connecticut called for snow and freezing rain from late tonight to noon Monday, then rain and snow between noon and 3 p.m., followed by more snow and freezing rain.

Airline and ground travel is likely to be disrupted between Boston and New York and points west, AccuWeather reported.

In New London, barely recovered from the nearly two feet of snow that fell almost two weeks ago, the latest forecasts means public officials face the prospect of more cleaning up. The task of clearing all 63 miles of city roads (126 miles, counting the two lanes on each road) falls on the shoulders of 15 Department of Public Works employees licensed to drive one of the city’s 11 large plow trucks, Director of Public Works Tim Hanser said.

When significant snowfall is expected, DPW requires all hands on deck to prepare for and clean up after a storm. Last week, when the city got 2 feet of snow, DPW employees put in an average of about 130 hours of work, according to parks and ground maintenance manager Dave Denoia.

When the city decides to institute a parking ban, police Captain Todd Bergeson said, it must be put into effect three hours before towing begins so police officers have time to locate car owners and make sure cars are moved.

“If the blizzard starts and we try to get vehicles moved at that time, we’re never going to get the vehicles moved before the Public Works Department comes,” Bergeson said. “The last thing we want to do is tow people, that’s the last resort. But after three hours and all that work, we have no other option because public works is coming with their vehicles.”

This year, Bergeson said, the police department began using a supplemental shift of officers and a supervisor assigned to work directly with the Department of Public Works leading up to a snowstorm.

Having a group of officers dedicated to enforcing the parking ban — and not having to pull other officers off their regular patrols — helped make the pre-snow process go much smoother than usual, Bergeson said.

As a rule, the city tries to impose a parking ban at least five hours before snowfall is expected to begin to give the police three hours to coordinate the removal or towing of vehicles and to give the Public Works Department two hours to coat the roads with a salt solution that helps prevent the snow from sticking to asphalt.

“Without the parking ban, you’ve got parked cars that are inhibiting the approach of these large trucks that are trying to get in and it just can’t be done,” Denoia said. “It makes it smoother so that we can get our pre-treating done more completely and then be plowing the minute the snow starts.”

Mayor Daryl Jusin Finizio, who makes the final call on the parking ban, said he must also consider the effects a parking ban will have on businesses downtown and adjust the timing of the ban accordingly.

“Sometimes we have tried to push that, when we know it’s a Friday night or a Saturday night or the Sunday Super Bowl,” he said. “We’ll push right up until not even starting the ban until two hours before projected snowfall, which is really not enough time but we try to push the envelope understanding the businesses are affected.”

Though downtown business owners have said they fear the downtown parking bans cost them customers, Finizio said not having a parking ban would create serious long-term problems for the city.

“Now if that’s not cleared or doesn’t melt, which it probably won’t, and we get another storm, now you’re talking about ice pack forming on the sides of roads that eats up parking spots, creates hazardous conditions, narrows the streets and that can last persistently for weeks,” Finizio said. “So while the parking bans drive everybody crazy, if we don’t do them and don’t do them properly, the temporary disruption of the ban winds up being a permanent disruption of long-term ice pack.”

 b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Twitter: @bjhallenbeck

c.young@theday.com

Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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