Tolland schools were closed today for removal of snow and ice that has piled up to at or near capacity loads, according to Superintendent William D. Guzman. As a precautionary measure, the district took the day to reduce snow levels from rooftops to prepare for accumulations that might come with two potential storms on Saturday and this coming Thursday.
Public Safety Officer John C. Littell said he sent out a Web Emergency Operation Center (EOC) request yesterday after a visit from the civil engineer said that immediate action needed to be taken. Town Manager Steven R Werbner received the call last night that the National Guard would be sending troops. Littell immediately called Operations Manager Clem Langlois Jr. to take care of supplies needed for the troops.
John Carroll, of building maintenance, called Littell within the hour, he said. There were no snow blowers, shovels or related snow-removal equipment in local stores within the jurisdiction. With 10 shovels from the Highway department and 15 from the Board of Education, they were 75 short to meet the needs of all the Guards.
At midnight, Assistant Fire Chief Doug Racicot called saying he had located 100 shovels in Waterford. “Only one of 18 of the men we sent out found shovels,” Littell said. The Plan B was to have the Board of Education send out a request for help to residents, he said.
“Twenty-two snow blowers were brought in by Tolland residents,” Werbner said. “We can’t thank the public enough. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
Littelll, the civil engineer and a colonel met at 3 a.m. Littell and Langlois have literally been working non-stop since last night—in truth, they and their crews have been working tireless hours to meet the needs of the town continuously since the day of the first big snow storm.
The Air National Guard out of Bradley arrived at 6:30 a.m. Seventy troops are at the high school alone.
“The high school is a mammoth facility,” said Werbner. “There are banks of up to seven feet up here.”
Werbner said that the Town was spending an excess of $20,000 per day to mobilize troops.
Littell said there were 45 people working on the middle school. A combination of Guards, town crews and several school janitors were helping to clear off the roof there.
“This has been a disaster. This is a lot bigger problem than we expected,” Littell said, speaking to the challenges clearing the school roofs. “It’s been a long, draggy winter.”
Maintenance have been taking care of the school buildings since the first snow storm of the season, keeping paths clear and draining the pipes, said Littell. However, with the record-breaking amounts of snow this winter, “we’ve just maximized the snow level loads for the schools,” he said.
He said he couldn’t thank town residents enough for their help, especially loaning snow blowers. “One or two residents brought cases of water,” he said. At least one resident dropped off a hot meal.
"We asked the superintendent to have a light breakfast, a full lunch and extended that now to dinner for the troops," Littell said. "The cafe staff has been phenomenal."
Littelll said the crews found that snow blowers were the most effective equipment on the roofs today. “We broke over 30 shovels over the course of the day,” he said.
Littell said the aim was not to totally clear the roofs from snow. "We are just trying to disperse the snow [from those high banks] around the roof," he said.
The Guard will finish their duty at the high school and middle school tonight. “The Board of Education will have to look into arrangements for the other schools,” said Werbner.