GROTON -- As towns and cities around the state struggled to keep pace with a fast moving storm system that, in many places, left more than 2 feet of snow on the ground over the weekend of Feb. 9, local emergency responders reported that everything went like clockwork in Groton.
"It was business as usual," said Department of Public Works director Tom Delaney on the Monday after the storm. "Except for the middle part of the storm, in the middle of the night, we fell behind just a bit. Other than that, it was a very easy storm to work.
"We got more snow with this storm than we did all last year," continued Delaney. "But as long as we get regular snow and not rain or ice mixed in, 10 inches or 20 inches, it doesn't matter."
The same estimation was given by Groton Electric Light director Kevin Kelly who, amazingly, reported that his department did not receive a single call dealing with power outage anywhere in town during the storm.
"Wet snow is much more damaging than powder because wet snow and wind combined takes down trees," said Kelly. "And this was a powder storm. We didn't have to deal with wet snow.
"I'm happy to report that we had zero call-outs as a result of this storm," said Kelly. "Part of that is luck, but we had a very uneventful weekend so that everybody was able to stay home with their families."
Kelly said the explanation for the lack of outage as a result of the record breaking storm was good planning.
"We do the same preparation for every storm," said Kelly. "We make sure everything that we can get is ready to work and all employees are ready, all the equipment is ready, and the vehicles are ready. But what we've been doing over the last couple of years that helped is that we've doubled the tree trimming budget and also doubled the number of poles replaced. In the past, we replaced about 100 a year and this last year we replaced 207 poles. So we're getting all the weakest poles out of the system and replacing them with new ones. That helps keep the system up. There's a direct correlation between tree trimming and trees knocking out power."
Similarly, the powdery snow made things easier for the Fire Department. Chief Joseph Bosselait reported only two medical calls and a chimney fire.
"We staffed a pickup truck, equipped it with a plow and sand, and brought it to every call with us," said Bosselait. "We staffed every station and public safety with personnel from 6 p.m. Friday to 11 a.m. the next morning so we had full crews at each station. It was a long day but everybody did a great job. It was very challenging to get around in that storm but we did it in a timely fashion."
Likewise, Delaney said his department was also well prepared in advance.
"We're ready to go after each storm," said Delaney. "We're ready now for the next one. We have enough trucks, sand and salt on hand and we make sure that the guys are rested beforehand. The night of the day before, we remind them to be well rested because we know they're going to be out for 24 hours."
Watching anxiously as snow began to fall during mid-afternoon on Friday, the DPW only waited until there was enough accumulation to make their efforts worthwhile, then swung into action.
"We started at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and went home at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon," said Delaney of the marathon cleanup operation. "Then we went back out on Sunday to do the tidying up.
"Things are fine now," said Delaney on Monday morning even as stray snowflakes began to fall again. "It's snowing again but we're going to go out today to push back snowbanks and clean up Main Street. Meanwhile, all the sidewalks are done."
Luckily for Delaney and communities around the state, a relatively mild winter season left snow and ice budgets somewhat intact by the time the blizzard struck.
"Before the storm hit, we had a little less than half of it left, about $125,000," reported Delaney. "Right now, we still have about $90,000 left. But we're close enough to the end of the season that it should be enough. There are not a lot of events this time of year."
According to Delaney, the Groton area ended up with about 18 inches of snow for which his department fielded a fleet of 25 vehicles, municipal and private contractors combined, to clear the streets.
"There was a statewide driving ban," said Delaney. "I wish they would do that for every storm. It was dead quiet on the roads, making it easier for us to work on snowbanks. The biggest thing is that without traffic on the road, the snow doesn't get packed down so we can just plow it clean right down to the pavement."
But despite the ease by which the town's crews handled the situation, the record-breaking storm still represented a challenge by anyone's estimation -- one that required hundreds of man-hours to address so that residents could walk and drive in safety by the time the last snowflake drifted to earth.
"I just want to say 'well done' to the guys who did a tremendous job during the storm," said Delaney, no doubt echoing the sentiments of everyone in town. "My thanks go out to all of them."