SHIRLEY -- As meteorologists predicted, the blizzard dumped about two feet of snow on the region, often accompanied by fierce winds. But unlike seaside communities on the north shore and Cape Cod, which suffered widespread storm damage and power outages, the small town of Shirley stayed snug and safe, with no downed trees, power outages or storm-related accidents reported.
"It was very quiet," Deputy Fire Chief Joe Hawthorne said Monday afternoon.
Fire Chief Dennis Levesque, who is the town's MEMA/FEMA emergency director, was out with the DPW crew, helping to plow after an icy mix of rain and snow fell Monday morning. Their goal was to clear the roads before the slush froze, Hawthorne said.
Summing up the post-storm picture, Hawthorne reported no snowstorm-related incidents such as motor-vehicle accidents, snowmobile or snow blower mishaps and only unrelated ambulance calls. Other than a couple of alarms, there were no fire calls, either, not even a chimney fire.
Statewide, the governor's state of emergency call -- with a ban on most vehicle traffic -- made a difference, keeping roads clear for plows and reducing risk of traffic accidents. But Hawthorne said it probably had less impact in Shirley, where there's not much traffic anyway. Besides, he said, with everything closed, there was no place to go.
The saving grace was that the snow was light and fluffy versus wet and heavy, he said.
Asked about parking at the railroad station,
The parking lot has become a sore spot for town officials and a sometime nuisance for neighborhood residents. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation pays the town for maintaining 25 spaces in the state-owned lot, but commuters clearly need more, especially with construction at the Leominster station lot in recent months.
In a recent memo to selectmen, DPW foreman Paul Farrar counted more than 100 vehicles in the lot and on nearby streets. The issue hasn't been resolved yet, but according to Hawthorne, the entire lot was cleared of snow during this storm.
Police Chief Gregory Massak said his department was prepared, with tire chains installed on cruisers and an extra police officer on the roster Saturday night and Sunday. He also called in a maintenance crew to ensure access to the station throughout the storm, he said.
As it turned out, the storm came and went without causing major incidents.
Paging through the police and fire log for the storm period, Massak cited medical calls unrelated to the snow storm, a couple of motor-vehicle lockouts, parking complaints and a glitch at the Main Street railroad crossing when a gate broke, probably due to wind. A rail crew working nearby called for maintenance and it was soon repaired, he said.
And the Citgo service station in Shirley Village ran out of gas, probably because an unusual number of motorists stopped in to top off before the storm hit, Massak posited.
Anecdotally, he said grocery and hardware stores in the area were swamped with customers stocking up before heading home to wait out the storm.
The state travel ban definitely helped, in his view, allowing plows to work unimpeded and all but eliminating unnecessary traffic. "Everybody stayed home," he said.
Massak commended Shirley's three-man DPW for doing a great job clearing town roads. Main roads and intersections were clear, and even side roads were passable, he said.