Williston survives season’s first major bout with blustery weather
By Tim Simard
While parts of southern Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts were slammed with New England’s worst ice storm since 1998, the Champlain Valley experienced its first significant snowfall of the season.
Schools were closed across the area on Friday as snow, then sleet and freezing rain made for treacherous road conditions on a cold December day. Luckily, the valley missed the devastating damage and power outages that large portions of New England continued to deal with into this week.
According to National Weather Service data, recorded at Burlington International Airport in South Burlington, just over eight inches of snow fell in the area. Forecasters predicted close to a foot earlier in the week, but a period of sleet and freezing rain tempered snow totals.
It was the same story in Williston, as both Allen Brook School and Williston Central School cancelled classes for the day. Bob Mason, chief operations officer for Chittenden South Supervisory Union, said the superintendent’s office made the decision between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., with help from reports issued by the Department of Transportation.
In spite of the wintry mix, roads improved as the day wore on. Public Works Director Neil Boyden credits the hard work of the town’s plow drivers to stay on top of the storm. As the snow piled up in the middle of the night, crews were out plowing, salting and sanding. Boyden said only one plow broke down out of the seven plows the town owns.
The lack of wind prevented drifting snow from piling up on the roadways, and the timing of the freezing rain kept road conditions from becoming worse than they could have.
“If it had happened at the beginning of the storm, it would have been a different story,” Boyden said.
Sean Soper, a Williston firefighter, said calls for assistance during the overnight and early morning hours of the storm were light. But the department responded to a flurry of accidents and alarms during the last burst of snow late in the morning.
“We had a whole bunch of calls all at once,” Soper said.
Firefighters responded to two building alarms between 10 a.m. and noon on Friday, most likely caused by power surges, Soper said.
Around the same time, crews also responded to a motor vehicle rollover on North Williston Road at 10:53 a.m. Soon after, another crew responded to a car accident at 11 a.m. at the corner of Route 2 and Industrial Avenue, where crews discovered a vehicle had slid into an embankment. No injuries were reported in either accident.
Boyden said crews were out again Sunday evening as wind whipped snow across exposed roads. Plows on East Hill Road, North Williston Road and South Brownell Road fought with snowdrifts as warm air blew into the area.
Much of the snow melted on Monday with warm temperatures and rain showers, but winter returned Wednesday, with three to six inches forecasted to fall across the region. More substantial snow is expected Friday into Saturday, with more possible Sunday into Monday.
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