January 27, 2016

Town Digs Out After Massive Winter Storm

As the sun finally emerged following one of the worst snow storms in the history of the Eastern seaboard, Sunday was a day of transition in Princeton, where 22 inches of snow were reported according to the National Weather Service.

Early in the day the snow and wind, which had reached blizzard conditions Saturday evening, subsided, The state of emergency was lifted, flood waters at the shore subsided, power outages were restored, and Governor Chris Christie returned to New Hampshire after a two-day interruption in his presidential primary campaigning. 

People emerged from their houses, many for the first time in more than 36 hours, and the massive snow-shoveling project began, along with some sledding, snowball fights, and snowman making.

Almost all area schools were closed Monday, but New Jersey Transit trains and buses, which had been suspended for much of the weekend, were back in operation, with some delays, and area airports were gradually restoring normal service.

“This was a tough one,” said Princeton Director of Infrastructure and Operations Robert Hough. The local public works road crews of about 35 were on duty from 9 p.m. Friday straight through to mid-day Sunday, and they were back Monday morning continuing with snow removal and clean-up.

“The biggest problem was that the snow continued to come, one wave of snow after another,” Mr. Hough described. “It was a very big event, one of the worst I’ve seen, but the crews came through.”

Main roads were passable by the time of Sunday morning’s lifting of a travel ban, but many side streets were still snow-covered, parking on many streets was impossible, and mountains of snow everywhere made visibility and walking difficult.

Sunday night and early Monday frigid temperatures made for dangerously icy conditions, but puddles of slush began to mix with ice as warmer temperatures arrived Monday afternoon and Tuesday.

Road crews were focused Monday and Tuesday on clearing one-way streets and other locations where emergency vehicles might have problems, as well as areas with high parking volume. Crews were also in the area of schools, checking and clearing crosswalks in preparation for Tuesday openings — most with a 90-minute to two-hour delay.

“The delay will allow temperatures to rise above freezing and for rush hour traffic to subside,” said School Superintendent Steve Cochrane. Mr. Cochrane warned about uncleared sidewalks, limited parking at the high school and visibility limited by piles of snow.

Digging operations continued Monday and Tuesday as property owners worked to meet the Tuesday deadline — 48 hours from the last snow at 8 a.m. Sunday — for clearing sidewalks.

“Not back to normal yet,” Mr. Hough declared. “For the next week we’ll be continuing clean-up and snow removal from parking lots and streets At some street corners there are high mounds of snow obstructing vision, and we will be getting them cleared.” Mr. Hough warned of the hazards of snow shoveled or blown into roadways and also advised people to follow city ordinances and calls from police to move their cars off the streets.

There were no storm-related serious injuries locally, according to Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter. Eight storm-related casualties were reported elsewhere in the state, 29 throughout the East Coast.

There were two minor motor vehicle accidents in Princeton on Sunday and about ten stranded motorists. “The biggest problem,” Mr. Sutter said, “was the stranded motorists,” but he reported that “everything was slowly getting back to normal” by Monday afternoon.

Trash pick-up scheduled for Monday was rescheduled for Tuesday and Monday recycling has been postponed to Saturday, January 30.

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, at Monday night’s Council meeting, announced a special thank you to local service personnel, “everybody working together. Public works did a bang-up job.” Council member Heather Howard echoed Ms. Lempert’s words of praise, “Several friends called and said they would never complain about their property taxes again.”