February 6, 2014

Snow Rocks Princeton, More on the Way

Round One of a trio of winter storms predicted for this week dumped some eight inches of snow on Princeton Monday, closing schools and many offices and turning roadways into slippery obstacle courses. The Princeton Police Department responded to 132 calls for service in 24 hours, about 90 percent of which were storm-related.

“That’s more than we would handle in a 24-hour period, but considering the storm it’s based on, it’s par for the course,” said Sergeant Michael R. Cifelli, who handles communications for the department. “A tree fell on a car at 25 Witherspoon Street, but that was the most unusual thing that happened.”

No one was inside the car parked outside La Mezzaluna restaurant. Most of the 37 disabled vehicles the department responded to were either stuck in roadways or had slid off. Because of the disabled vehicles, some roads were impassable and had to be temporarily closed. Route 206 between Cherry Hill and Herrontown roads and between Birch Avenue and Hodge Road; Mt. Lucas north of Poor Farm Road; Herrontown between River Road and Caldwell Drive; and the entire length of Cherry Hill Road were the most problematic thoroughfares, according to police reports.

There were seven motor vehicle crashes, none resulting in injuries. Six trees came down, and there were 20 reports of fallen wires or utility poles.

Public schools were closed Monday and opened 90 minutes late on Tuesday. The Princeton Public Library closed at 1 p.m. Monday and had to postpone one of the programs in its Princeton Environmental Film Festival. The Library opened an hour late on Tuesday. In the event of storms predicted for Wednesday and this coming weekend that could result in loss of power for residents, plans were being made to keep the building open and accessible.

“We’ve had discussions today where we’ve identified staff who live close by and can open the building if there’s a widespread power outage,” said the Library’s Communications Director Tim Quinn on Tuesday. “We’ve also been in communication with the mayor and the emergency management people. We were here for the public after Superstorm Sandy, and assuming we’ll have power, we’ll be here for the public again.”

The storm postponed trash collections for Monday and Tuesday, and also resulted in municipal court cases being rescheduled when the afternoon session was cancelled. The municipal building closed at 3 p.m. The freeB daytime and evening commuter bus routes were cancelled in the latter part of the day.

Governor Christie declared a state of emergency, the third time this winter, on Tuesday, and it remains in effect for Wednesday.

After a busy 24 hours responding to calls for assistance, the municipality’s Public Works department was scheduled to have a crew back on call starting at 9 p.m. Tuesday night to respond to problems that might arise from the freezing rain that the National Weather Service was predicting for late Tuesday into Wednesday. The police department is prepared for the third storm that is predicted for Sunday.

“In terms of road closures or accidents, we’re going to monitor and get updates out the best we can through social media,” said Sergeant Cifelli, “just to make sure the public is aware.”