Westfield Digs Out From Blizzard
38 DPW staffers working to clear roads, while homeowners handle their sidewalks.
As work crews clear roads and residents shovel sidewalks of nearly two feet of snow, gusts of nearly 50 miles per hour continue to make it feel like day two of the post-Christmas blizzard. The National Weather Service says that in addition to the gusts averaging about 30 mph, Westfield residents could be facing an additional inch of snow today.
Public Works Superintendent Claude Schaffer said residents shouldn't take to the streets. Many residents reported that adding that many of the secondary and dead-end streets hadn't been cleared. He said the main streets in town are open, but are far from perfect.
"They're terrible," Schaffer said of the roads. "We have to keep on doing them. Some of the trucks have been stuck. All night long my loader guys have been pulling the plows out."
Schaffer said 38 DPW staffers started plowing roads at 6 p.m. Sunday night, with salt trucks heading out earlier in the afternoon. He said the plows will be out all day on Monday to clear off secondary roads. The forecasts of winds blowing snow around will complicate efforts of plows.
"Hopefully by tonight, we'll be here for the majority of the day," Schaffer said of the timeline to clear roads.
Schaffer said the high winds are not the only things complicating plowing efforts in town. He said many cars have been left on the streets and have been buried in snow, causing delays for plows.
"Now the landscapers are throwing on the street and that is making more of a mess," he said.
The Westfield Rescue Squad reports answering 16 calls since the storm started on Sunday morning. The calls include a woman in labor, chest pains, lift assistance, a cat bite and other general medical calls.
Squad deputy captain Jonathan Delano reported that the squad provided mutual assistance to Clark and that the Westfield Fire Department provided coverage for a medical call while the squad was responding to another call. Ambulances were escorted by the Fire Department and the DPW during the evening and early morning hours to reach houses.
The storm started mid-morning on Sunday and quickly escalated to whiteout conditions around town. Drivers reported sliding around town roads while making their way home on Sunday.
The storm rendered downtown Westfield a ghost town by late Sunday afternoon as many shoppers returned home on the normally busy day after Christmas. Most downtown streets were empty of cars and pedestrians in the afternoon, with many stores closing early due to the storm.
The impact of the blizzard has been felt statewide, with reports of drivers stranded on the Garden State Parkway and Route 80 overnight.
Acting Gov. Steve Sweeney has declared a state of emergency statewide and announced the closing of state offices. Sweeney, the Senate president, is the state's chief executive while Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno vacation out of state.
"The first action I took as acting governor was to receive a complete briefing on the state's storm preparations from the State Police, the commissioner of transportation and the governor's chief of staff," Sweeney said in a press release distributed by the governor's office. "…It is vital that police and public works crews are able to do their jobs."
Union County spokesman Seb D'Elia announced late Sunday evening that county government offices will be working on a two-hour delay on Monday and that county paratransit services have been suspended on Monday. The county's Superior Court is also closed on Monday due to the snow.
NJ Transit has suspended bus service and announced that all train lines will be operating on a modified weekend schedule, similar to the schedule planned for Marin Luther King Jr. Day. The transit agency plans to continue cross-honoring tickets through Monday evening.
This is the third blizzard to hit Westfield in 2010, following two in February. During the blizzard on Feb. 10-11, Westfield received the most snow in the New York metropolitan region, with 17.5 inches. It took the DPW more than 24 hours to clear the roads during that storm. But much of the evidence of this latest blizzard could be washed away as we head into 2011. Forecasts are calling for temperatures to rise into the high 40s by the weekend.
Editor's Note: Thank you to Westfield residents Sara Soriente and Douglas Townsend for photos of the snow.