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Lamont and state officials: Stay off the roads Saturday

The National Weather Service has a blizzard warning in effect for New London County from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Saturday, after previously implementing a winter storm watch for this period.

The warning, updated at 3:31 p.m. Friday, said total snow accumulations could be 13 to 17 inches — up from Friday morning's forecast of 11 to 15 inches — with winds gusting as high as 60 mph.

Most places in eastern Connecticut will see 20 inches or more, said Gary Lessor, chief meteorologist with the Western Connecticut State University Weather Center. Blizzard conditions are likely in places, but he said he wasn't sure exactly where yet. He's expecting peak wind gusts of 55 mph on the shore, 45 mph inland.

"This'll be the biggest storm since the blizzard of 2017," Lessor said. "It might end up being the biggest storm since the blizzard of 2013, when Hamden had 40 inches of snow. In the '17 blizzard, East Hartford had 19 inches for a high in the state."

He said Friday morning that it looks like snow will taper off early Saturday evening, a change from his Thursday forecast that snow would start in the Groton-New London area before dawn Saturday and end between 10 p.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday.

"Everything is definitely a lot faster," Lessor said. Compared to earlier forecasts, he's now looking at a broader area of heavy snow, such that western Connecticut will get more snow than originally anticipated.

We've all heard the words "stay home" a lot over the past two years in the context of COVID-19, but it's a phrase that Gov. Ned Lamont, Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giuletti and Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella all said in a briefing Friday afternoon in the context of the storm.

Lamont announced that as of 6 a.m. Saturday, tractor-trailers will not be allowed on the roads. Giuletti said on Saturday, Metro-North "is going to run a very limited service" and Amtrak won't be operating. He encouraged people to visit cttravelsmart.org for travel updates.

All Southeast Area Transit District services — bus, Smart Ride and ADA Paratransit — will be suspended Saturday.

Giuletti said DOT has more than 600 snowplows that will be out, not including contractor trucks. He's getting projections that the storm could drop 3 to 5 inches of snow per hour, which plow drivers can't keep up with, though road clearing depends on the duration of the storm. He said only about a dozen absences are due to COVID-19 at this point.

Lessor said wind chill values in southeastern Connecticut could be zero to minus-10 on Saturday morning, but Sunday should be sunny and breezy with highs around 25 to 30 degrees.

The 3:15 p.m. update from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection has a forecast of 18 to 24 inches in eastern Connecticut, up from its Thursday afternoon forecast of 16 to 20 inches. The latest models have the storm tracking "a little further southeast," but DESPP said even a slight change in the track of the storm "will have a significant impact on snowfall amounts here in Connecticut."

The update said towns in southern Connecticut can expect about 6 inches of snow on the ground by 6 a.m., with blizzard conditions expected at times between then and 4 p.m. 

Towns should have contingency plans in place if the heaviest bands — snow falling at 3 or 4 inches an hour — from eastern Massachusetts unexpectedly get into Connecticut, the department said. A minor to moderate number of power outages are expected, as is the cancellation of almost all air travel in the Northeast.

Parking bans in effect

Cities and towns are instructing residents to remove their cars from the streets, or they'll get towed and ticketed.

New London is requiring people to remove their vehicles from the streets and parking lots in the downtown business area by 11:59 p.m. Friday. Drivers who need to keep their vehicles downtown can use the Water Street Parking Garage for free.

Residents of Michael Road and Anthony Road can park in Bates Woods and will have 24 hours to remove their vehicles. There is no parking on narrow streets, and where parking is typically permitted on both sides of the street, park on the odd side only.

In Norwich, parking is prohibited on the odd side of all city streets.

On some streets, parking is not allowed on either side, due to their narrowness: Old Cemetery Lane, North Cliff Street, Shetucket Avenue, Terrace Avenue, Fourth Street from Prospect to Gilmour, Fifth Street from Prospect to Page, Lake Street, Pond Street, Freeman Avenue, Boswell Avenue from Lake to Arnold, Sunnyside Avenue in the Laurel Hill section, both Fairmount Street and Fountain Street from #16 to School Street, Carter Avenue, Summer Street, Center Street and Quarry Street.

Stonington's ordinance requires vehicles removed from roadways when there is more than 2 inches of snow. In Stonington Borough, cars on Main Street and Elm Street must be parked on the even side on even days, and the odd side on odd days.

Waterford police said a parking ban starts at 9 p.m. Friday "and could remain through the weekend to allow crews time to clear the roads properly. (We will keep you updated)."

Montville has a parking ban in effect from 11:59 p.m. Friday to noon Sunday, while Ledyard's townwide parking ban is from 9 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Sunday. North Stonington isn't allowing street or median parking from 11:59 p.m. Friday through 1 p.m. Sunday. East Lyme's parking ban starts at 8 p.m. Friday.

The City of Groton is enacting a parking ban on all city streets — except that parking is allowed on the even sides of Nathan Hale Drive, Paul Revere Drive and Litton Avenue — from 6 p.m. Friday to noon Sunday. Temporary parking is available at Eastern Point Beach, the municipal lot at 2 Latham St., and Washington Park.

Mayor Keith Hedrick said the city is gearing up with appropriate staffing, and "the bottom line is we are prepared and we are geared up for 20 to 30 inches. We're geared up for an excess of 1 inch per hour snowfall, and as a result of that, we're asking people to stay off the streets because visibility is low."

Hospitals prepare

Paul Rizzo, bureau chief of highway operations for DOT, said the 78 salt sheds around the state are up to capacity, and "we're not having any problem with material deliveries at this time."

Rovella said state police barracks will be fully staffed, and National Guard partners are in place to assist if needed.

Lamont said he likes to think "that we're ready as we can be. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst."

Patrick Turek, director of emergency management for Hartford HealthCare, said snowplow teams are checking the hydraulic equipment and fueling the trucks, and emergency medical teams and ambulances will be on the road Saturday.

Turek added that generators are "tested, fueled and ready to go," and deliveries of critical supplies were taking place Friday.

"I'm confident that Hartford HealthCare is well prepared to ensure our operations continue throughout this weekend," he said.

Hartford HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health have closed all their COVID-19 testing sites and vaccine clinics Saturday.

e.moser@theday.com

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