2010-12-30 / Front Page

First blizzard of winter hits island

By Tim Riel


Onne van der Wal clears the heavy snow from his driveway following the post-Christmas blizzard which shut down most of the eastern seaboard. The winter storm left about one foot of snow on the island. 
Photo by Jeff McDonough Onne van der Wal clears the heavy snow from his driveway following the post-Christmas blizzard which shut down most of the eastern seaboard. The winter storm left about one foot of snow on the island. Photo by Jeff McDonough The first storm of the winter was a blizzard. It dropped about a foot a snow onto the island, and aside from a snowblower fire, it headed out to the ocean without incident.

“It went superbly,” said Town Administrator Bruce Keiser. “The low amount of traffic left the roads relatively empty and wide-open for the plows to take care of.”

The snowstorm – which dumped 20 inches in some parts of Rhode Island – started early Sunday afternoon and didn’t stop until Monday morning. The storm was expected to continue through the day Monday, but ended earlier than expected.

The town rotated employees from midday on Sunday until 7 a.m. the following morning, which kept four plows on the Jamestown roads through the blizzard. A parking ban was put into effect by the town and spanned the same hours as the plowing.

“We staggered our crews,” Keiser said, “which allowed them to work for about 20 hours straight. We were able to sand and salt initially, so that kept the icing down.”

Although the storm wasn’t as harsh as expected, it still brought the town to a standstill. Just about every store and restaurant in the village was closed, save for a few, like Jamestown Hardware and McQuade’s Marketplace.

“Sunday was a fairly productive day,” said Scott Sherman, owner of Jamestown Hardware, “but Monday we closed due to lack of sales.” The hardware store stayed open to 1 p.m. on both days, however residents left their homes on Sunday to prepare for the weather. “From 8 to 11 a.m., we were packed,” he said.

The store sold out of shovels and ice melt, and after restocking, sold out again. “We sold a good amount of sleds also,” Sherman said.

McQuade’s was just as busy on Sunday afternoon, as people stormed the store in preparation. “It was very slow on Monday, but we got wiped out of bread on Sunday,” store manager Maurice Browning said. “It was pretty typical for a storm. Everyone stocked up on water, milk and bread.”

Like Jamestown Hardware, he said that McQuade’s was a “ghost town” on Monday, as most island residents stayed off the streets.

“Things went pretty smooth,” according to police. A couple of poles went down, but there were no major accidents or incidents. The snowblower fire on Sampan Avenue was the only serious call the department received.

Keiser said that the town is in much better financial shape this winter than it was a year ago at the same time, due to a few early December storms in 2009.

“Last year we were in a signifi cantly worse position,” Keiser said. With the overtime expenses from plowing, he mentioned that “about $3,000” was taken from the snow-removal budget.

“It’s about one-seventh of our overtime budget for snow removal,” Keiser said.

Keiser commended Jamestown residents for staying home and allowing the Public Works Department to do its job. “It was a great surprise. There weren’t any commuters, which helped a lot.”

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