Winter blasts drop 16 inches on Cranston

Storms deliver $200K punch

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Cranston was pummeled with a combined 16 inches of snow over the course of two separate storms, costing the city more than $200,000 of its $740,000 snow removal budget.

First came the blizzard on Thursday. What started as morning rain quickly turned to snow, continuing on into the evening. The system dropped a foot on Cranston, but Public Works Director Ken Mason said that the city had been planning ahead as always.

“The Department of Public Works and the Highway Department, we always start planning a day before,” Mason, who has been director for 4½ years, said. “We just make sure we’ve got all our salt and sand available. Basically, a few hours before the storm really sets in, we’ll go out and treat some roads, especially the mains and the hills.”

Mason added that when the blizzard enters into “full-storm mode,” which is more than three inches of accumulation an hour, the city dispatches its private vendors to assist the situation.

Cranston uses 30 of its own trucks for a combination of sanding, salting and plowing, while more than 100 vendors also hit the streets when they are called in.

Mason said the cleanup process went “about as well as expected” despite a few hiccups.

“We had a foot of snow and we had a few problems here and there, but all in all the city was up and running the next day,” Mason said. “Some of the mains were a little on the ruddy side. The storm itself was a bit problematic because the first two or three inches was the really slushy stuff that froze, then we got about nine or 10 inches of the light powder stuff. We did have trouble on some of the mains getting the ice pack off.”

The impact of the blizzard was felt around Cranston as residents were digging themselves out on Friday morning.

Booz Derogene, 30, saw the power of the storm firsthand. A truck driver by trade, Derogene was stuck on the highway for two hours coming from Massachusetts into Rhode Island.

“Once my truck was unloaded, I had no traction on my tires,” Derogene said as he was scraping away at ice on his driveway Friday afternoon. “When I was leaving Massachusetts, it wasn’t that bad, but when I got to Rhode Island it was like night and day. It was just horrible. When I got home it took me a few hours to shovel my driveway just to get in.”

Kirk Wilcox, 55, was shoveling out his daughter’s driveway on Friday. He has lived in the city for 15 years and, compared to other storms he has witnessed, he said this blizzard “wasn’t that bad.”

“I’d say stay off of them,” Wilcox said when asked the best way to be proactive about keeping the roads clean.

Mason would agree with that sentiment.

“The whole idea, really, is when we’re plowing, just stay off the roads,” Mason said. “Just stay off the roads when we’re plowing. Be very cognizant of them. They can’t see as well as you can. [Residents] have to heed the parking bans. We have awful times trying to plow the streets that have cars on them.”

Mason and his corps had another issue to deal with on Sunday into early Monday morning. A second system moved into the area, dropping an additional four inches of snow.

While the precipitation was expected to last well into the morning on Monday, it stopped shortly after midnight. The brunt of the snow ended at about 5 p.m., according to Mason.

“[Sunday’s] storm was not as bad as predicted,” Mason said. “Our staff came in at noon time [Sunday] and we got the vendors in at 7 o’clock. They swept through the city and had it cleaned up by 1 o’clock in the morning. It froze overnight, and we’ve been out all night and morning cleaning the city streets.”

Cranston survived the four-day barrage, but winter isn’t over yet. The weather seems clear for the next week or so, but Mason knows that a sense of relief can’t be felt until about mid-March.

“The winter’s probably got another month to go,” Mason said. “If we can make it through the middle of March, that’s almost the end of our season. Hoping not to get too much more.”

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