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Early snow delivers a white Thanksgiving

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Posted on November 28, 2014 |
By Zach Despart



Snow.jpg
ON THANKSGIVING MORNING, a Middlebury youth makes the most of the unusually heavy snowfall the day before by laying the first sledding trail of the season. Addison County received the largest snowfall totals in Vermont for the storm. Independent photo/John McCright

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County’s 23 towns bore the brunt of a Thanksgiving Eve snowstorm that blanketed Vermont and much of the Northeast on the busiest travel day of the year.

Forecasters from the National Weather Service office in South Burlington said Addison County got more snow than any other county in Vermont, ranging from 8 inches in Vergennes to 16.5 inches in Orwell.

“That was the jackpot area,” said NWS meteorologist Andrew Loconto. “There was a pretty good snowband which dropped some good amounts across the county.”

The storm, which traveled southwest to northeast, brought snow to Addison County starting around 1 p.m. Wednesday. Loconto said the heaviest snow began around 10 p.m., and by sunrise the snow fall had ceased.

Most Addison County towns saw more than 10 inches, including Starksboro (11.5 inches), East Middlebury (12.4) and Cornwall (14). Loconto said the wide variation in snow totals was due to a narrow band of intense snow.

“That band did pivot to the north, but the most intense snow was in the central and southern parts of the county,” he said.

In Vermont, snow totals varied widely. Central and southern counties saw near-whiteout conditions while the northern part of the state escaped with little accumulation.

“In Franklin County they got just a few inches,” Loconto said.

The changing path of the storm took weather watchers by surprise.

At the beginning of the week, forecasters predicted the storm to track though just Bennington and Windham counties. On Tuesday, area meteorologists said most of Addison County could expect 3 to 7 inches. Not until Wednesday morning, just hours before the storm, did forecasters revise their snow estimates to 6 to 12 inches in Addison County. Even that guess turned out to be low for some towns.

Stranger still was that on Monday, Nov. 24, temperatures across Vermont surged into the 60s. Burlington’s high of 69 degrees set an all-time record for that date.

Just 48 hours later, temperatures dipped into the 20s and the state was hit by its first snowstorm of the year. Despite the recent cold days, Loconto said this has been a warmer than average November by about one degree.

The meteorologist added that it is not uncommon to have volatile temperature swings this time of year, though November snowstorms are infrequent.

“In the Burlington area, the last time we got an 8-inch snowfall was back in 2002,” Loconto said.

The snowstorm pushed many communities in Vermont past their average snowfall for the entire month of November. According to the National Weather Service, Burlington averages 5 inches of snow in the month.

The snow knocked out electricity for more than 16,000 Vermonters, according to Green Mountain Power. Most of the outages were in Windham County.

The snow also made roads difficult to travel across the state. A tractor-trailer accident on Interstate 89 near Royalton Wednesday evening left northbound travelers stranded for hours.

Locally, Vermont State Police Sgt. Stephen McNamara said troopers from the New Haven barracks responded to 29 vehicle-related incidents between noon Wednesday and 8 a.m. Thursday.

McNamara said 12 of those responses were for accidents, while the remaining 17 were for vehicles that had slid off the road. Two of the accidents resulted in injuries.

State police also reported an accident Thursday morning on Route 22A in Addison, where a New Jersey woman slid off the road and crashed into a tree — back-end first. The driver sustained minor injuries and was taken to Porter Hospital as a precaution.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, for students who love snow days), area schools were off Wednesday through Friday, keeping school buses off slick roads. Trucks from MiddState towing in New Haven helped 40 vehicles that became stuck during the storm.

The storm was also a boon to many of Vermont’s ski areas. Killington and Pico mountains reported more than a foot of powder. The Middlebury Snow Bowl plans to open on Saturday, Dec. 13, but the Rikert Nordic Ski Center on the Breadloaf campus in Ripton is already open for the season and welcomed at least 10 inches of fresh snow from the storm.

On Friday Rikert reported 20 km of groomed classic and 8km of skating trails open for use.

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