REGION: A 'PERFECT STORM' MEANT ROAD CREWS WERE PREPARED AND RESIDENTS HAD PLENTY OF TIME FOR BREAD, MILK, SHOVELING AND FUN
|Three amigos: Derry neighbors Lenny Dupere, Phil Szalowski and Billy Loporto take a break from shoveling Wednesday afternoon to admire their work. CHELSEY POLLOCK PHOTO|
and CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondents
|Visibility was low Wednesday afternoon as|
drivers braved a snowy Crystal Avenue in Derry.
Pre-storm activities generally involved one of two things: wondering if fallout from the “weather bomb” forecast by the National Weather Service would actually produce as much snow as meteorologists were promising, or stocking up on bread and milk.
School administrators began canceling school the night before; wired employees planned to telecommute in lieu of getting up early to dig out; kids boldly fell asleep without setting their alarm clocks and, in some cases, blew off homework assignments due Wednesday.
Plow crews were able to do everything by the book.
Yes, it was a perfect storm — if you like your snow fluffy and deep.
“I don’t want to minimize the time and effort that plow crews put into clearing the streets, but when you look at the factors of this storm, it all came together to help us fight the storm effectively,” said Derry Director of Public Works Mike Fowler.
“Our guys had a chance to get some sleep, get up early and salt just as the snow started, and then just work at trying and keep ahead of the snow throughout the day,” Fowler said. “The most unusual factor was lack of visibility early on, and the rate of snowfall was also an unusual factor. But we’re expecting to start cleaning up around 3 p.m. and get the roads open for the evening commute,” said Fowler midday.
Derry Town Administrator John Anderson said the rest of the good news on the storm front was a lack of power outages or major car accidents.
“People seem to be staying off the streets, and the snow plow folks are certainly doing their work,” Anderson said.
And Derry Fire Battalion Chief Jack Webb noted no storm-related calls.
“This is a snowstorm and this is New England, and we prepare for it,” Webb said.
As snow continued to fall lightly on Salem streets by late afternoon, Public Works Director Rick Russell estimated snow totals at about 17 inches and counting — about average for the region, according to Weather Service totals.
“It’s still snowing like heck, but it’s not as bad as it was,” Russell said. “It was coming down so bad at 9 and 10 o’clock that we asked the guys if they could hold off on lunch. We could hardly keep up with it, but we just kept at it and finally got ahead of it.”
Chester Police Chief William Burke said things were quiet yesterday on his watch.
“I was the only giant snowman walking around town — starting at about 7:30 this morning, and I’ll be here until it’s all over tonight,” Burke said. “There’s only one guy scheduled to work, and I would hate to leave anyone stranded, so I’ll hang around for a while.”
Snow brought a different set of customers to East Derry General Store during the storm, said owner Sam Patel.
“We’ve been busy all day, but not so much with our regulars; it’s people coming in for bread, milk, eggs, cigarettes and beer,” Patel said. “We pretty much ran out of milk.”
General Store chef Mike Morse whipped up an extra big batch of beef stew in anticipation of the storm-related lunch rush, and dinner take-out crowd.
“We didn’t run out of stew — we planned ahead,” said Patel, who remained open until 9 p.m.
For recent Derry transplant Miguel Lopez, who moved here from North Carolina three months ago, yesterday’s storm was a study in how to survive a New Hampshire snowstorm.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said while shoveling his driveway on Chester Road. “I didn’t know how to prepare.”
A half-hour into shoveling, a passing plow driver made light work of the end of Lopez’s driveway with a few quick passes.
Fordway Road resident Kenneth Whitney, 75, a retired long-haul truck driver, spent yesterday plowing out neighbors.
“It was that kind of storm where even though you plowed once, you had to go back later and do it again,” Whitney said. “Because of the wind and the drifting, I will have to go back in the morning, too.”
Born and raised in Derry, Whitney said he would have moved south by now if he didn’t love the snow so much.
“That’s why I never went to Florida. I prefer snow to snakes,” said Whitney, who tires of the way people tend to romanticize the “good old days” of New England snowstorms.
“Years ago we had about a dozen guys working for the town. They used shovels to throw sand on the streets, and when they were done they walked down the sidewalks and spread the sand by hand — they didn’t have salt. That meant people rode right on top of the snow and packed it down, which made the roads hazardous. Then, we’d get terrible pot holes,” Whitney said.
“And if you drove a plow, you spent as much time getting yourself unstuck as you spent plowing. If the truck heater kept your toes warm, you were lucky. Me — I’m plowing with a Suburban, which is a luxury vehicle compared to what we used to drive.”
When it comes to “perfect storms” this one will be hard to beat for Christine Derhak of Londonderry, who smiled when the phone rang yesterday at 5:30 a.m.
“I knew exactly who it was,” said the Londonderry High School employee. “School was officially canceled, and I went right back to sleep and didn’t get up until after my four kids, who all slept in, too.”
Derhak made lemon poppy seed muffins for her crew of kids, ages 8, 11, 13 and 16, before letting dinner make itself by assembling chicken soup in the crock pot. She spent the rest of her day cleaning and caught up on her household to-do list while the kids played outside.
“I don’t usually have time to organize and clean. And my husband was fortunate enough to be able to work from home, so it was quality time all around,” Derhak said.
“And tonight, we’ll eat chicken soup and then watch the Celtics game. It was a perfect snow day — nothing bad happened, we all had fun, and I got a much-needed day off,” Derhak said.