Nor'easter could dump more than a foot of snow on the region Tuesday

A wheel loader loads road salt in preparation for an expected winter snowstorm on Monday,  March 12, 2018 at the at the Logistec New London Terminal. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
A wheel loader loads road salt in preparation for an expected winter snowstorm on Monday, March 12, 2018 at the at the Logistec New London Terminal. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

A nor'easter arriving late Monday and continuing through Tuesday afternoon is forecast to dump between 8 and 16 inches of snow on the region, with eastern Connecticut expected to be the hardest hit area in the state.

In New London County, rain or light snow is forecast to begin after 11 p.m. Monday, with light snow falling overnight and accumulating to 1 to 3 inches by morning, said Gary Lessor, meteorologist and assistant director at The Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.

Around daybreak, the storm will shift to heavier snow, with snow falling up to 1 to 2 inches per hour from the morning to the early afternoon, he said. The snow will taper off in the mid to late afternoon, with the possibility of some snow showers continuing after 4 p.m., but for the most part, the accumulating snow will have ended by then.

Schools across the region are expected to close Tuesday. The first to cancel class was Stonington which made the announcement at 4 p.m. Monday. A complete list of closing and cancellations are at www.theday.com.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said the timing of the storm will have a major impact on Tuesday morning's commute. Heavy snowfall, poor visibility and slippery roads are predicted during the morning rush hour, a time when there is typically the highest traffic conditions.

"Ideally, a lot of folks will decide to sit this one out and stay off the roads," he said.

If people decide they need to drive, they should make sure they add in additional travel time to drive slower and have a vehicle equipped for the winter weather, he said. Crashes from people driving too fast or in ill-equipped vehicles for the conditions could shut down the highway and bring roads to a standstill, he cautioned.

The DOT on Monday was strategically pre-treating bridges, hills and valleys, certain ramps, and "trouble spots" on highways and secondary state routes in preparation for the storm, he said. The DOT plans for its 634 plow trucks to be out on Tuesday and has roughly 200 private contractors on stand-by to supplement the crews.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a news release that he will partially activate the state's Emergency Operations Center at 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Amtrak announced on Twitter that it was suspending service on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Boston on Tuesday, at least until 11 a.m. Shore Line East will trains will also be suspended on Tuesday until it's safe.

Wind gusts could reach as high as 40 to 45 miles per hour between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday, Lessor said. The snow is anticipated to be less heavy than last week's storm, which left thousands in the area without power. But with the amount of accumulated snowfall predicted, there is the possibility of scattered power outages, he said.

Eversource said in a news release that with the third nor'easter in fewer than two weeks slated for Tuesday, "line and tree crews, along with many out-of-state line workers already here, will again be ready to respond."

"As the predictions include wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour, this storm has the potential to cause more damage to the energy system," the release states. The company also posted storm preparedness and safety tips on its website.

Communities in the region — some that just saw power fully restored this weekend, after outages from last week's storm — were also getting ready. Officials were closely monitoring the storm's forecast, announcing parking bans, and preparing staffing plans.

Joe Sastre, Groton's emergency management director, said his office has been contacting utility companies and keeping first responders informed. The Public Works Department was preparing Monday for the storm.

"When it starts, the trucks will go out and everybody will keep at it until it's all over with," Sastre said.

In Montville, where power was finally restored to all customers Saturday afternoon, Raymond T. Occhialini, the town's fire marshal and emergency management director, said plow trucks were ready and the town, as always, was prepared to respond to any calls.

Michael Finkelstein, East Lyme's police chief and emergency management director, said the first selectman is closing Town Hall and the Community Center on Tuesday to keep people off the roads and keep a safe environment. The town is also ensuring there will be enough police and emergency resources to respond to calls, and public works crews will be out in "full force."

If there are widespread power outages, town officials would assess with regional partners and the Red Cross whether they should open a regional shelter or create a warming center, Finkelstein said. All those decisions would be made based on the conditions during the storm.

While the snowstorm is hitting at a time of the year when spring is fast approaching, Lessor said snow in March isn't unusual. He pointed out that the Blizzard of 1888 dumped 50 inches of snow on Middletown.

Over the next two weeks, temperatures will average below normal, so another snowstorm isn't out of the question.

"The possibility does exist for more snow,"  Lessor said. "I do not see any storms on the horizon that indicate we will have more snow, but I certainly would not be ruling it out."

But by April, with longer days and warmer temperatures, the chance of snow becomes increasingly unlikely, though not impossible.

"There has been snow in Connecticut in May," Lessor said. "It has happened in the past, but to get a serious snow storm by the first or second week of April in the New London area becomes quite difficult."

k.drelich@theday.com

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