CUMBERLAND — The Blackstone Valley began to dig out from the Blizzard of 2013 this weekend but not without a few complications.
The intensity of the storm, its heavy snowfall overnight Friday and into Saturday morning, and high winds all hindered public safety crews in clearing roads immediately and set the stage for long hours of plowing into Monday.
Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee and Woonsocket Mayor Leo T. Fontaine both credited public works and public safety employees in their respective communities with doing their best to keep local roads open to emergency personnel even while overcoming problems cropping up in their operations as the snowfall continued.
At the height of the storm in Cumberland, 4,500 homes were without power and the town had to manage providing auxiliary power to its highway barn as the storm raged.
Woonsocket sustained a number of plow truck breakdowns overnight Friday that, at one point, it took half of the city’s complement of 15 large trucks and 10 smaller plows offline for a time, according to Fontaine.
The storm’s fast punch of heavy snow prompted the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts to issue a travel ban through 4 p.m. Saturday, which was intended to keep people from driving on snow-covered roads while state and local public works crews continued their clean-up operations.
The ban was enforced largely by State Police on major highways and resulted in minimal traffic during typically busy Saturday business hours. Those who did get out of their driveways, whether in a vehicle or walking, as people had done in the Blizzard of ’78 now 35 years ago, found few businesses open and little to do besides enjoying brightening skies in mid-20s temperatures.
As the state travel ban ended Saturday, McKee learned that power had been restored to all but 23 homes in his community. The remaining affected homes were scattered outages and McKee said the majority of the affected families had their services restored.
The Greater Rhode Island Chapter of the American Red Cross opened a regional emergency shelter at the Cumberland High School Wellness Center that remained available for those affected by the storm until Sunday afternoon.
McKee said the town’s plowing operations were shut down just before midnight Friday as the wind-driven heavy snow created white-out conditions on town roads. The plowing resumed Saturday morning. Crews worked Saturday night on opening up some roads that were still restricted with snow.
“We had our challenges [Friday] night for sure,” McKee said while referring to the heavy snow and power outages.
Read more in Monday's print edition of The Call.