Take heart, snowfall isn't quite on a record pace


NASHUA - Everyone who's sick of snow and ice and the resulting shoveling, plowing and snow blowing, raise your hand. Now be grateful it's not the winter of 1995-96. About 5 inches of snow and sleet blanketed Greater Nashua on Wednesday, turning roads and sidewalks into skating rinks and, at points, turning the F.E. Everett Turnpike into a glorified parking lot. As of Wednesday evening, things weren't looking much betterfor today's commute, according to Hudson resident Doug Webster, a senior meteorologist with Meteorlogix in Woburn, Mass. "(Temperatures) will drop pretty good later tonight, so anything that's out there will freeze solid again," he said. As the snow and sleet wound down Wednesday evening, Webster said the rain and freezing rain was only getting started and would be heavy at times for a couple of hours. Wednesday's storm brought the total precipitation for this year to about 55 inches for the Nashua area, Webster said, well above normal for this point in the year but behind last year's pace. Last year, the region got 92 inches, well below the record of 112.1 inches that fell the winter of 1995-96, he said. The snow and sleet was enough to make traveling a challenge all day Wednesday. Police and fire departments reported a small flurry of activity in the morning but things calmed down later in the day. During the morning commute, a four-car accident in the southbound lane of the turnpike near Exit 11 caused a 6-mile-long traffic jam that reached the Bedford tolls. At various points in the jam, vehicles were at a standstill or barely moving, which in some cases made the travel time between the tolls and Exit 11 about an hour. Nashua fire personnel responded to four or five minor accidents Wednesday, according to Nashua Deputy Fire Chief Dan Cronin. One involved a woman who slid off Ridge Road near Curtis Drive around 10 a.m. and into Salmon Brook, he said. The woman was uninjured and had escaped the partially submerged vehicle by the time emergency crews arrived, Cronin said. None of the accidents resulted in serious injuries, he said, although several people were transported to area hospitals with minor injuries. Things calmed down in the afternoon, Cronin said, although he wasn't hopeful for this morning's commute since he expected the roads to freeze overnight as temperatures dropped. "We just recommend people slow down, and if they can, stay off the roads. It (makes it) much easier for plow drivers to get their work done," Cronin said. Also as important as slowing down is keeping more distance between cars, Cronin said, so there's room to break and maneuver if something untoward does happen in front of you. "At the same time you need much greater stopping distance in this type of weather," he said. "People just need to be heads up and drive accordingly." Around 5 p.m., police started towing cars parked on city streets in violation of the citywide parking ban, according to Nashua police Sgt. Michael Ledoux. Other than the morning accidents, things had been quiet, he said, with no reports of downed trees or wires. Merrimack and Hudson didn't have any serious accidents to respond to either, according to emergency officials there. Hudson police Lt. Bill Avery credited good work by the town's plow drivers and light traffic for the slow day. "I definitely want to give high praise to our DPW workers because our roads are in really good condition," Avery said. "It makes our job a lot easier." Hollis police Lt. James Sartell said his officers responded to a handful of calls for trees down or disabled vehicles but not a single accident as of 5 p.m. "There hasn't been much here. I think it's a result of there not being many people on the road," he said. "I'm knocking on as much wood as I can over here." Nashua should dodge the next storm, Webster said, which is forming in the Atlantic Ocean but should stay far enough out to sea to miss New Hampshire. The next storm he sees on the horizon is beginning to come together in the Gulf of Mexico and, for now, looks like it will be mostly rain. That should hit New Hampshire around Tuesday, he said. "That could be the January thaw that we didn't have, except it will be February by then," Webster said. "That's not etched in stone by any means. It wouldn't take a lot to be a snowstorm."
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