Vermonters heed road warnings

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(Host) One of the biggest snowstorms in recent memory has blanketed every part of Vermont today shutting down schools, businesses and state government.

Weather forecasters are predicting that at least two feet of snow will fall before the storm is over – if that’s the case – this snowstorm would go down as one of the ten biggest in Vermont history.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Plowing sounds)

(Kinzel) Vermonters heard sounds today that they haven’t heard very often this winter – the sound of plows and snow blowers running in an effort to keep up with a heavy and constant snowfall.

The snow started overnight and intensified throughout the morning and late afternoon. Schools throughout the state were closed, state government and most businesses shut down and drivers were urged to stay off the road.

Amtrack canceled its service through Vermont and travel in and out of the Burlington airport was extremely limited.

Public Safety commissioner Kerry Sleeper is in charge of the state’s emergency management control center in Waterbury.

(Sleeper) “There’s been some major inconvenience and fortunately that’s about it. The good news is that we’ve seen this storm coming for a couple of days. People appear to have listened very carefully and recognized the potential dangers of traveling on the highways that traffic volume is down significantly.”

(Kinzel) Sleeper also made some personnel changes to get more state troopers out on the road to help deal with emergencies.

(Sleeper) “In order to maximize our police resources we’ve taken the criminal division, the investigators you usually see in coats and ties and put them into uniforms. And that gives us somewhere between 30 and 40 additional troopers on our highways.”

(Kinzel) Dispatcher Larry Dodge keeps tabs on the state’s entire road network at the Agency of Transportation. He says many plow crews are fighting to keep up with the snowfall.

(Dodge) “You can sense a little frustration in the voices of the truck drivers. It’s getting a little overwhelming now but they’re still pushing the stuff off to the side and hopefully that will continue. One second please.”

(Dispatch sounds)

(Dodge) “674?”
(Burt) “Larry, this is 664.”
(Dodge) “Go ahead Burt.”
(Burt) “There’s a Suburban stuck right in the snow bank probably needs a snow bd and a wrecker.”
(Dodge) “Okay, I’ll let somebody know thanks.”

(Kinzel) At this time the snowstorm has not caused any major power outages. CVPS spokesperson Steve Costello says that’s because most of the snow has been light and fluffy.

(Costello) “So far we’ve had a pretty good day. We’ve had a handful of very small outages. In fact the two biggest outages we had occurred because snowplows hit the utility pole. Other than that we’ve had just one and two customer outages here and there, some of which weren’t really related to the weather.”

(Kinzel) Costello says the situation could have been much worse.

(Costello) “If this had been a wet heavy snow we could have had a disaster on our hands here in Vermont thankfully it’s a relatively light snow and something that obviously is going to make skiers happy.”

(Kinzel) Officials say they’ll evaluate the condition of the state’s road system early Thursday morning to determine if it’s safe for Vermonters to travel to work.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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