'Storm of the Century' hits Vermont - 7:00 p.m.Jeb Wallace-Brodeur/Times Argus
A plow truck works to keep roads clean as blizzard conditions bear down on the region.
Blizzard conditions hit Vermont this morning, dumping up to 14 inches of snow on some parts of the state by afternoon. And it’s still coming down.
As the heaviest bands of snow began to rotate into the area Wednesday
afternoon visibility fell to near zero and traffic on Route 2 moved at
barely more than 20 miles per hour. Many back roads were still unplowed
and featured more ski and snowmobile tracks than tire marks.
State government closed at noon today. Roads throughout the state are virtually impassable. Ski areas are celebrating as they prepare for a snowy, holiday weekend. Emergency officials are warning everyone to stay off the roads.
Winter storm closings were rolling in all day. Flights are delayed at Burlington International Airport, and travelers are encouraged to contact individual airlines for updates as the day progresses. The Edward F. Knapp State Airport in Berlin closed. State government and the University of Vermont closed at noon. Vermont Gas issued a list of safety measures that included keeping meters and vents clear of snow.
Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express northbound was canceled north of Albany, and therefore no southbound train out of Rutland on Thursday, as well as service north of Springfield, Mass.
At one point, reports began surfacing that the governor’s office had declared a state of emergency, but Vermont Emergency Management issued a statement denying those reports just after noon.
The National Weather Service upgraded the morning’s snow storm to blizzard conditions, with up to two feet forecast for most of the state, including Rutland and Washington Counties.
Several Vermont legislative committees canceled work at the Statehouse today in response to the hazardous weather conditions. The Sergeant at Arms office reported that Senate Transportation, House Appropriations and Administrative Rules Committees would not meet today.
A spokeswoman at the Statehouse said that as of this morning, those were the only official cancellations received for lawmakers. Some committee rooms were full and busy; others were dark an empty as lawmakers made individual decisions about whether to travel to Montpelier.
Schools throughout the state were canceled, and even some businesses were included in the morning radio closing roundups.
Despite the snow, however, the Valentine bandit visited the Statehouse and other buildings in Montpelier on Wednesday to put up large red paper hearts. Other state buildings, stores and restaurants were also visited during the night, with business windows throughout downtown Montpelier covered in the red paper hearts - a mystery that has become a Valentine’s Day tradition in the state’s capital city.
“Currently, there are no leads and no suspected,” joked Dave Janawicz, chief of Capitol Police. “But the investigation continues."
Montpelier police said they had no reports of major accidents or incidents as of 9:30 a.m. By 9 a.m., about 5 inches had already blanketed the city, and snowfall picked up sharply in the afternoon. Snowplows were working hard to keep up with the problem.
“They’ve been out bright and early, we’ve been hammering it,” said Montpelier Public Works Director Todd Law. “We made sure yesterday that our equipment was ready, put the chains on and made sure we had adequate salt and sand.”
Law said the city would focus on the most treacherous and heavily traveled roadways.
“The biggest thing for us is the hills and the high volume roads,” he said. “They will get the first and the most attention and then we have some smaller trucks that can assist to do the flatter roads and just punch a hole through.”
Law asked motorists to take their time and said that by evening, they should get their cars off the roadways.
More than eight inches of snow had fallen across parts of Vermont over the course of the morning, and forecasters adjusted those totals up over 14 inches by 1:50 p.m. Meteorologist Mark Breen joked on Vermont Public Radio this morning that this might develop into the storm of the century, although he noted that the century is only seven years old.
Florists were preparing Tuesday for this snowfall and the complications they will face trying to meet Valentine’s Day deliveries.
"We've pushed most of our orders up. We have five vehicles out there," Emslie the Florist owner Valerie Beaudet told the Times Argus on Tuesday. She said the company was trying to get as many Valentine's Day flowers out to customers before the storm. "We have over 200 orders for Valentine's Day and usually 100 the day before. We've had friends and family come in today to help out."
Despite the warnings, however, ski areas and snow-related businesses were cheering the snowfall. There has been little snowfall to date this winter, and a heavy dump of the white stuff is sure to boost business.
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