NASHUA — With the first substantial snowstorm of the season expected to hit the region today, city crews have been busy preparing their equipment, plows and emergency plans.
“This is not going to be a blockbuster storm, but we always try to be ready,” said Justin Kates, director of Nashua’s Office of Emergency Management. “I am hoping it will be smooth sailing.”
Kates participated in a conference call with the National Weather Service in Boston on Friday afternoon, at which time he was told to expect about 8 to 10 inches of snow in southern New Hampshire.
Snow will likely start falling this afternoon; however the heaviest snowfall is projected to begin after 10 p.m., said Kates.
It ‘s been a while since New Hampshire experienced any large snowfall amounts, so Kates said it is important to remind people to be prepared. Early today, before the snow begins, Kates said homeowners should check their snowblowers and generators to make sure they are working and have sufficient gas.
However, once the snow starts to fall, Kates encouraged residents to stay home and keep the roads clear for snow removal.
“I think we are going to be OK with the plowing — the Streets Department is ready,” he said. “We just hope people will cooperate. Regardless of the size of the storm, it only takes a small amount of snow on the roadways to make them slick. If there is no reason for people to be out, it is always easier for the plow drivers when the roads are clear.”
He also reminded motorists who do have to venture out in the snowy weather to drive slowly and cautiously. This week, there were two fatal car accidents in Nashua, and police believe both of them were related to black ice or other winter weather conditions.
Kates is hopeful that roads will be cleared by Sunday afternoon so residents can safely finish any weekend errands. Still, he said anyone trying to get to church Sunday morning should be careful on the roads.
The city has about 1,400 streets to plow, or 765 miles, in addition to 200 sidewalks.
Typically, about 85 city employees are called in to assist during snowstorms, and 60 pieces of snow equipment are often used. There are more than 40 citywide plowing routes, and 12 primary routes that are pretreated before the snow falls.
On average, the city uses about 8,000 tons of salt each winter, along with 1,500 to 2,000 tons of sand. In addition, about 2,500 gallons of fuel is used during each major snow event in the city.
Last year, the city’s $1.2 million snow removal budget was nearly depleted by the start of March, in part because of February’s Nemo storm that dumped 2-feet of snow in Nashua.
While Kates said he can’t compare this weekend’s anticipated storm to Nemo, some of the same rules apply — such as removing parked vehicles from the roads so that the plow trucks can adequately clear the streets for emergency vehicles.