Sunday February 10, 2013

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- National Guard troops joined state crews to clear Connecticut roads Saturday following a massive storm that dumped as much as 3 feet of snow, making travel nearly impossible even for emergency responders who found themselves stuck on highways.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said 270 guard troops were deployed to assist a storm recovery that he said could take several days. Some people who had been stranded in cars were found suffering from hypothermia, he said.

A woman in her 80s was killed by a hit-and-run driver Friday night as she was clearing snow in Prospect, Malloy said.

The storm shut down airports, led to a travel ban on state roads and left residents to dig out from piles of snow that left cars completely buried. But compared with other recent storms that battered Connecticut, many were relieved that power outages were not as widespread and the shoreline was spared significant flooding.

In the shoreline community of Fairfield, the sounds of snow blowers filled the air in neighborhoods where buzzing generators and tree cutters filled the air just a few months earlier.

Kathy Niznansky, a 65-year-old teacher who was forced out of her home for two months by Superstorm Sandy, said she was thrilled she was dealing only with snow and not flooding.

"I feel like having a party," Niznansky said. "I am so, so relieved."

Scott Bauer, whose Fairfield home was destroyed by Sandy, said his family has been toughened up by the experience.


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As he dug out from several feet of snow in their second rental home, he said he was happy he didn’t lose power.

"We’ve already been through the ups and down rollercoaster of emotions with losing our home and the kids moving twice now," he said. "I think they are hardened by the storm, so they’re definitely a little tougher now and they realize that this really isn’t that bad."

Still, the road conditions caused plenty of headaches. Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau said emergency vehicles got stuck in the snow all night. The roads were in such bad shape that police and firefighters could not come in to work, so the overnight shift was staying on duty.

"It’s a real challenge out there," Tetreau said. "We are asking everyone to stay home and stay safe."

Before dawn Saturday, Malloy implemented a travel ban for all but emergency and recovery vehicles, and he pleaded for people to stay put. Drivers including state troopers were getting stuck on the state’s highways, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said.

"We’re having difficulty getting around. It’s very slow going," Vance said. "It’s imperative people stay off the roads."

As of midday Saturday morning, 38 inches of snow were reported in Milford, 34 inches in New Haven and 20 inches in Danbury.

At a 7-Eleven store in South Windsor, clerk Nigesh Desai said his only customers Saturday morning were police officers and snowplow drivers, mostly buying coffee.

"There’s nobody on the road," he said.

Bill Tsoronis used a snow blower to carve paths through huge snow drifts in his South Windsor neighborhood.

"I thought we might have 18 or 20 inches, but in some places it’s up to my waist. It’s more than I expected," he said. Still, he said the storm was not much more than a nuisance, since the neighborhood still had power, and he said he might gather with neighbors for cocktails later in the day.

The state’s largest utility, Connecticut Light & Power, reported power failures affecting 38,000 homes and businesses, representing 3 percent of its customers. Hardest-hit were communities in southeastern Connecticut such as North Stonington, where 74 percent of customers were without power.

United Illuminating, which serves customers in southwestern Connecticut, said power failures affected fewer than 200 customers Saturday morning. Its crews restored power to 1,900 customers overnight.