Amid 'snow drought,' wintry mix sweeps through

A storm swept through the region Tuesday, closing schools and coating roads in ice but continuing this winter's trend of abnormally low snowfall.

Forecasts initially called for 1 to 3 inches of snow along the shoreline and 2 to 4 inland, but most towns in the region saw their snow totals increase by mere centimeters, meteorologist Gary Lessor said. New London saw an inch of snowfall, while Ledyard saw 1.5 inches.

The region has seen a virtual "snow drought" this winter, Lessor said. For example, Groton has seen only about 4.5 inches of snow this winter, he said, whereas the region typically gets about 23.2 inches. The first 11 days of February have averaged 30.6 degrees, about 2.2 degrees warmer than average, and January and December also were warmer than usual, he said.

"We keep getting these inside runners, storm systems heading to the Great Lakes and from time to time getting secondary developments along the coastline, pulling warm air off the ocean and quickly changing to rain," Lessor said. "The snow is just not measuring up."

Snow began in southeastern Connecticut about noon Tuesday. Because of warm air surrounding the storm, the snow quickly mixed with sleet and turned to rain in the evening.

Lessor said he expected the rain to end about 6 a.m. Wednesday, and the sun to emerge and temperatures to be in the mid-40s.

Most area schools and Mitchell College closed for the whole day Tuesday, though North Stonington schools and Connecticut College opted for early dismissals. Lessor said he understands the rationalization for closing. “If the storm ended up getting here a couple hours earlier and we were wrong, then parents would be extremely upset,” he said.

“When I was going to school, we would have had school today,” Lessor said. “But I do a lot of testifying in civil law cases, and there’s so much money involved. You can really hurt a municipality very quickly if you choose to have school and a bus ends up in a fatal accident. They’ve got to be careful.”

In New London, Mayor Michael Passero said crews pretreated roads and loaded trucks with salt Tuesday morning. “The usual stuff,” he said.

Because the snow was expected to turn to rain, “we just have to manage to keep roads safe for a few hours, until Mother Nature clears away the rest for us,” he said. “We’re going to benefit from living on the coast on this one.”

Passero said the Homeless Hospitality Center could accommodate those who needed shelter due to the storm.

Groton Town Manager John Burt said that in preparation for the storm, public works crews fueled all their vehicles and checked to make sure they were operational on Monday.

"Because this was also going to be a rain event, all basins and drainage structures were cleared of materials," he said.

The town also was fully stocked on salt and its vendor, DRVN Enterprises in New London, also was fully stocked.

Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick said the city picked up recycling Tuesday morning, which freed up crews to go out and keep the streets clean in the afternoon.

East Lyme Public Works Director Joe Bragaw described the winter as light thus far and Tuesday's storm as "pretty straightforward." East Lyme crews stayed after typical work hours and worked through the storm.

Lessor noted that a larger system could bring 2 to 5 inches of snow to the region on Feb. 20, "as long as it doesn't become a wintry mix." 

Day Staff Writers Lindsay Boyle, Mary Biekert, Kimberly Drelich and Benjamin Kail contributed to this story.

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