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Winter hangs on with heavy snow, below-average temps

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Posted on March 17, 2014 |
By Zach Despart



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A FRONT END loader dumps snow into the far corner of the Shaw's Supermarket parking lot in Middlebury Thursday morning after clearing the rest of the lot about 18 inches of snow from the storm that started Wednesday. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

ADDISON COUNTY — A massive snowstorm last week dumped close to two feet of snow in parts of Addison County and ground commerce nearly to a halt for two days.

Winter Storm Vulcan, as named by the National Weather Service, blanketed much of the Northeast Wednesday morning through noon Thursday. Northern Vermont bore the brunt of the storm, receiving higher snow totals than the other New England states.

Locally, Salisbury’s 21.5 inches of snowfall, as reported by the NWS, made it the winner (or loser, depending on your perspective) in Addison County. Cornwall followed close behind with 21 inches, followed by Orwell with 19. Middlebury, Ripton and Lincoln rounded out the leaders with 18 inches each. An Addison Independent reader reported 16 inches in Monkton.

County schools cancelled classes both Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the annual snow day total at the three supervisory unions that serve most of the county to 5.5 days. Middlebury College remained open through the storm.

During the storm, troopers from the Vermont State Police barracks in New Haven responded to 14 accidents, one of which involved injuries, Sgt. Eugene Duplissis said. Troopers also aided three motorists who were stuck in the snow. Middlebury police responded to four accidents and assisted 11 motorists who slid off roadways.

Tamara Boise of MidState Towing in New Haven said business was brisk during the storm, with the company’s three drivers working on and off for 36 hours.

“It was the busiest storm of the season,” Boise said. “Our drivers were out most of the night.”

Boise estimated MidState helped dozens of motorists who had been involved in accidents or were simply stuck in the snow. She said the fact that snow had dumped onto frozen roads contributed to the hazardous conditions.

“Most accidents were at a slow speed,” Boise said. “Drivers just couldn’t stop.”

The day before the storm hit saw spring-like weather, with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-40s. It turned out to be woefully misleading when the mercury sank and snow began to fall Wednesday morning.

Temperatures continued to fall throughout the day and evening Wednesday, down to single digits — a swing of 40 degrees in a 24-hour period. Close to a foot of snow, coupled with gusting winds, made for a difficult evening commute.

Heavy snow and blinding winds continued through Wednesday evening before tapering off before noon on Thursday. Shortly before 1 p.m., the National Weather Service office in South Burlington rescinded its winter storm warning, which it had previously issued through 8 p.m. Temperatures Thursday afternoon peaked at 12 degrees — 31 degrees below the historical average high for March 13. Only once this month did the temperature eclipse the average high for a given day. February saw only 7 days above average.

Among other results of the cold temps lasting later than usual is that maple sugaring operations are getting a late start and none are operating full throttle yet.

Conor Lahiff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in South Burlington, said Vulcan was the largest winter storm of the year for much of Vermont.

“It’s not the biggest down south, but from Rutland and Windsor County on north, it’s the biggest of the year so far,” Lahiff said.

The storm was the 12th largest in recorded history in Burlington, and the sixth largest March storm. The largest March storm occurred just three years ago, in 2011. On March 7 and 8 of that year, Addison County saw a huge snowfall — 24 inches were reported in both Bridport and North Lincoln — and children similarly missed two days of school.

Despite being the largest snowstorm of the season, many Addison County communities have still received less-than-average snowfall this winter. Salisbury has averaged 64 inches of snow over the last 30 years; this season the town has received 58. Lincoln’s 75 inches is well below its average of 123 inches.

Spring begins, at least on the calendar, on March 20.

The snow last week wasn’t all bad news for Addison County residents — Peter Mackey of the Middlebury Snow Bowl said that the slopes were 50 percent busier than normal on Thursday, as skiers flocked to shred the fresh powder.

Mackey said conditions on the mountain were variable, due to a lot of windblown snow, but said the setting was ripe for good late-season skiing.

“Nobody complained,” Mackey said. “There were a lot of smiles and happy people all around.”

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