By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
An army of plow vehicles worked virtually round the clock over the weekend battling a blizzard that dumped 20 to 30 inches of snow with whipping winds.
The storm, dubbed Jonas, hit with an unexpected fierceness. A Somerset County storm alert on Friday morning forecasted 7 to 14 inches of snow, although it noted it spoke with a “lower than normal confidence.”
An advisory from the National Weather Service at 10 a.m. Friday predicted 12-18 inches.
Mayor Frank DelCore said the challenge was not so much the amount of snow but how rapidly it fell — two to three inches per hour. Winds into the 30 mph range caused drifting that frustrated removal efforts.
Although the region watched the storm roll up from the south, virtually shutting down Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the storm’s blow punched the area hard — especially after weeks of milder weather that featured many December days in the 60-degree range.
Snow operations began at 9 p.m. Friday with the initial salting of the main roadways. All 30 Hillsborough Department of Public Works vehicles, along with 40 contractors, hit the streets when snow on the roads rose to about four or five inches by about 5:30 a.m. Saturday, according to Township Administrator Anthony Ferrera.
Crews plowed nearly continuously, taking meal and rest periods, for more than 24 hours. The final push started at midnight, after the snow had stopped, and went to 11 a.m. Sunday, when the staff was sent home, said Mr. Ferrera. All streets had been plowed to a passable level and salted, he said.
By Monday, snow operations continued with pushing back embankments of snow on street corners with front-end loaders on main roads. Main roads were widened to near their normal width, Mr. Ferrera said. By Tuesday, work focused on safety concerns, such as poor visibility from mounded snow.
DPW crews prepared in the days before the storm by attaching the 12-foot wing plow to a tandem dump truck, fueling up all vehicles, distributing updated maps of sidewalks around schools to the contractor assigned to the job and taking in deliveries of sand to mix with salt to stretch supply. The salt dome was stocked with 2,500 tons of salt; about 300 to 500 tons are used in a significant storm, Mr. Ferrera said.
“As always our DPW crews did a fantastic job, and I thank them for their hard work and effort,” said Mayor DelCore.
Hillsborough came through the storm safely, however. Christopher Weniger, the chief fire marshal, said there were no fires, although fire trucks did accompany and assist emergency rescuers in reaching houses were there were health emergencies. At some houses, activated carbon monoxide alarms roused responders.
Mr. Weniger asked for the public’s help in shoveling out any of the township’s 1,200 fire hydrants close to homes. Paid fire marshals and volunteer fire fighters can’t clear them all, he said.
Schools lucked out with the storm’s brunt coming in the weekend. Schools were closed Monday, and opened late on Tuesday.
Because of the unevenness of lengths of clear sidewalks, some students who live within walking distance of the high school on Raider Boulevard were provided with bus transportation Tuesday.
Students were also warned there might not be room to stand at their normal bus pickup locations.
By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor