By Chris Lundy and Kimberly Bosco
OCEAN COUNTY – The first big snowstorm hit the area, costing a lot of money and making dangerous driving conditions.
The storm, with terms like “bombogenesis” and “bomb cyclone” attached to it, dumped tons of snow that, because of the high winds, have been hard to measure in inch count.
Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato said parts of his town ended up with more than 18 inches of snow, which was the most of the region. This is in light of early predictions calling for between 4 and 8 inches.
“We had crews and private contractors out starting at 6 a.m. Thursday to begin plowing streets. This was in addition to our regular sanitation and recycling pick-ups that needed to be done first,” he said.
Amato noted that Berkeley is 42 square miles, with 271 miles of roads. In this are 300 courts, culs-de-sac and dead ends, which are more difficult to plow and require front end loaders. Given all that, it takes about 24-36 hours to get to all of the streets and move that much snow safely. It took about 100 pieces of equipment.
“The streets were done by Friday and the Courts were completed on Saturday,” he said. “Some areas had large snow drifts, over 3 to 5 feet, thanks to the 45 mph winds. It was extremely challenging for our staff.”
He thanked the town’s dedicated employees for all their hard work during the storm. He estimated that the total cost of the storm would be between $350,000 and $400,000. There is currently $500,000 allotted for snow in the 2018 budget.
Toms River, similarly, has about 600 miles of streets, Mayor Thomas Kelaher said. Some of these are county and state roads, but ultimately, there is a large amount of roadway to clear off. There were about 260 pieces of equipment doing the work.
The cost of the storm is yet to be calculated, but the township spent $600,000 on the last storm of this nature, so he said he is expecting similar numbers.
Gov. Chris Christie called for a state of emergency, which meant that the only drivers on the road should be people responding to emergencies.
That didn’t stop everybody. Police departments had to state repeatedly to stay home.
“We are reiterating our previously issued no driving alert,” issued a statement from Ralph Stocco of the Toms River Police Department. “As the storm intensifies, numerous motorists have not heeded the warnings sent out. Our police officers are risking their own safety to respond to vehicles stuck in the snow, spin outs off of the road, and minor crashes. The vast majority of these drivers are not essential employees.”
Furthermore, when police asked why people were out in the snow, they were giving reasons that were not worth risking lives, such as buying items from a store or just wanting to see how bad it was.
Police need to be available to handle medical emergencies, he said.
“Tying up these officers unnecessarily could conceivably cost lives,” he said. “Please do not risk your health, our officers, or potential needless damage to your vehicle.”
Barnegat Township saw a high volume of calls during the sizeable storm as cars became stuck in the snow and snow-covered sidewalks made it hazardous for kids to walk to school.
About 90 percent of these trapped vehicles became stuck on county roads such as West Bay Avenue, Barnegat Boulevard, and Lighthouse Drive, according to Lt. Keith Germain of the Barnegat Police Department. Slippery snow-covered sidewalks and bus stops also created unsafe conditions for kids on their way to and from school.
“Our officers provided traffic monitoring and traffic control, shoveled sidewalks in high-traffic areas, and even picked up and drove about 10 students to school in situations where the students would have otherwise been forced to walk down the middle of the street in traffic,” said Germain.
According to the National Weather Service, Barnegat received about 8.5-10 inches of snow and Stafford Township received approximately 17.5”. Stafford was on the slightly lower end of the spectrum when it came to storm expenses, only spending an estimated $19,000 on salt, $16,000 on vehicle repair, $17,000 in payroll for the water and sewer department employees, and $53,000 in payroll for public works employees.
The National Weather Service predicted a total accumulation of 12 to 16 inches. Due to the heavy snowfall, visibility was less than a quarter mile, which made driving extremely dangerous. Winds were predicted to be from 25-35 mph with gusts up to 55 mph.
Schools closed on Thursday and Friday, and some even had a delayed opening on Monday.
There was snowfall earlier in the season, but these were much less. Since they happened on the weekend, a lot of towns didn’t even need to plow those lesser storms.