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    Monday, March 20, 2023

    Region storm-tested

    Collectively, we are getting better at handling these major snowstorms.

    Tuesday's blizzard hit eastern Connecticut particularly hard, the Nor'easter's heaviest snowbands and strongest winds lined up along the Interstate 395 corridor and down to the shoreline. Snow totals ranged from 20 to 30 inches in these parts, but snowdrifts measured several feet deep, driven by gale-force winds.

    In the not-so-distant past, this would have been a true disaster, with motorists needing rescue on impassable highways and stranded commuters forced to find shelter where they could. Because of such events, the Blizzard of '78, a storm of similar meteorological proportions, is recalled as one of the area's great weather disasters.

    Due to enhancements in forecasting, greater access to information, sounder decision making by elected officials and improved public cooperation, the recent storm was more nuisance than disaster. It also helped that the snow was dry and powdery rather than the wet and heavy flakes that tend to bring branches and trees down on power lines.

    While weather prediction remains an inexact science, it is much improved over even a decade ago. This allows officials and the public to act with greater confidence. Forecasters looking at their multiple computer models knew well in advance of Tuesday's storm that the region was confronting a big one.

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the right call in declaring a state of emergency and ordering a travel ban for all roads starting at 9 p.m. Monday. Businesses and individuals wisely took the order and the forecast seriously. The result was largely empty roads that allowed plow drivers to do their job and keep ahead of an extremely heavy snowfall.

    When it became clear the storm track would inflict the heaviest snow on this region, Gov. Malloy lifted the travel ban in the western counties of Litchfield and Fairfield at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, while waiting until 2 p.m. to lift it in eastern Connecticut. His administration's performance in dealing with natural calamities remains strong.

    Taking aggressive action does not come without political peril. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned of a "historic" storm and banned food takeout, among other steps, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the unprecedented step of closing the city's subway system. When the storm veered east and New York received only an ordinary few inches of white, city dwellers grumbled. Better safe than sorry applies in this case.

    Some will grumble in these parts, too. Cities such as New London and Norwich have particular challenges with their narrow streets and lack of driveways, making snow removal difficult and finding a place for the stuff problematic.

    Yet overall, the state and region came through this big one in relatively good shape.

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