National Guard and Bulldozers Are Booked For Beacon's Big #Digout2017

A true snowpocalypse, this blizzard of March 2017 will seal the deal that winter is not over in the Hudson Valley until April. Remember when we had those Summer Numbers during the nice weekend over President's Day? How the shops were wrapping it up with Winter Clearance sales? Reflecting on how they made it through the winter? Hopefully you headed our advice and stocked up on winter clothes and boots, because this happened, leaving 2'-3' (feet) of snow covering Beacon. With cold temperatures locked in, the barricades of snow corralling people trying to get somewhere via sidewalk might not melt away anytime soon, especially as Saturday is forecasted for a new snowfall. This snow state did happen several years back, possibly five years, when the barricades of snow lasted for what felt like weeks.

How is the snow affecting life in Beacon? Let's take a look in pictures...

The National Guard is called to Beacon to help remove snow.

The National Guard is called to Beacon to help remove snow.

The National Guard Removes Snow

The National Guard was called in to remove snow from designated areas. We emailed the Mayor's Office for comment to get a definitive answer on what the National Guard's instructions were as it relates to where they were told to dig out first - which sidewalks, streets or parking lots - but have not received a response as of the publishing of this article. The Mayor's Office did, however, send us the alert of the State of Emergency, and the subsequent Modification. Troops could be seen up 9D on either side of the street, and on side streets connected to 9D. If you saw them elsewhere in the City, please chime in below in the Comments.

Beacon runs out of places to put the snow after plowing city streets. Beacon City School buses are running as of Thursday.

Beacon runs out of places to put the snow after plowing city streets. Beacon City School buses are running as of Thursday.

The snow fell Monday early morning, and continued all day on Tuesday, letting up at around 6pm. Shoveling mid-way through the storm seemed pointless, as so much more would fall. Digging out from people's homes began Monday night and continued into into an all-day affair on Tuesday, which was a snow day for most to just dig out of their houses - literally - to dig off the porch to even get to the driveway. Snow responders, like contracted tow trucks, snow plows, or people with snow blowers had to first get out of their homes in order to get to work - removing snow from elsewhere.

Commuters who normally travel to New York City had no where to go, as New York City was also buried and had train shut downs. Beacon's State of Emergency kept cars and people off the streets in Beacon. The street was not somewhere you wanted to be, as snow plow trucks rumbled through trying to get to different neighborhoods. Trash was picked up as usual, but some couldn't get to their garbage cans, unless they were like Arie Bram, a resident of Beacon, who pulled his cans out before the storm hit.

Unless you pulled out your trash cans the night before, they weren't going anywhere. Trash pickup did commence the day after the storm.

Paths in the snow proved to be hard to come by, as some sidewalks - both residential, business and public owned - were not touched at all or not cleared completely by Thursday since there is such a massive amount of snow that needs immediate clearing, making it difficult for first responders to get into a building. Keep in mind, several sidewalks were cleared by snow blower and shovel, but one doesn't realize how dependent one is upon so many sidewalks on both sides of the streets until one suddenly can't use them. Just a single property not clearing 100% of a sidewalk impacts basic accessibility on an entire route to the train station, for example.

The public parking lot on Henry Street needs several trucks to cart away snow.

The public parking lot on Henry Street needs several trucks to cart away snow.

Bulldozers Booked By City And Private Business To Remove Snow

When you run out of room to push snow into corners, you call in the bulldozers and dump trucks to cart it away. Plowing of municipal lots started on Wednesday, with heavy work continuing on Thursday. The lot pictured here on Henry Street is a double lot. One side of it is attached to local businesses like Towne Crier and LocoMotive Crossfit, and the other side primarily serves patients of the Beacon Community Health Center. According to employees who work in this area, the business parking lot was plowed on Wednesday, and the health facility plowed on Thursday, with workers starting overnight. The Health Center was open on Wednesday seeing patients, who consist of the elderly, children, pregnant women and healthy or disabled people.

The public parking lot next to Beacon Bread Company gets the bulldozer treatment.

The public parking lot next to Beacon Bread Company gets the bulldozer treatment.

Citizens who do not have driveways or a place to park their cars sought spots in the public parking lots, the 24hr rule of which remained in effect. But with so much snow, there was no where to move the cars. Residents visited the lots at night to shovel their cars out and lot-hop to avoid the ticket when one exceeds the 24hr rule. Pictured above is the public parking lot next to Beacon Bread Company on Thursday as a bulldozer lifted snow out.

Those who could not get to lots, or already had a car in a lot and needed placement for another car, borrowed friends' driveways, as Jesse Meyer of Pergamena, a tannery based in Montgomery, did, who had one car at the Beacon Bread lot, and another in a neighbor's driveway. He is pictured here digging out the first of two vehicles on Tuesday night.

A man with no driveway borrows another before heading to a public lot to shovel out two cars.

Some private businesses, such as Halvey Funeral Home, plowed early Thursday morning, completely clearing their sidewalks and street parking, which is a benefit to their clients as well as residents. Other establishments like St. Andrews Episcopal Church on South Avenue had completely cleared sidewalks, which is helpful for their congregation as well as kids walking to the elementary school just one block down the road. But other homes, which can be abandoned homes or homes with elderly residents, had not shoveled yet, making walking to school difficult as kids and parents needed to walk in the street.

Harvey Funeral Home completely cleared their sidewalks and street parking with a bulldozer.

Harvey Funeral Home completely cleared their sidewalks and street parking with a bulldozer.

The orange No Parking signs moved throughout the City all week.

The orange No Parking signs moved throughout the City all week.

No Parking on City Streets

The orange signs started going up on Wednesday (as per eye witnesses, we have not confirmed with the City), reinforcing the parking ban on City streets, but definitely acting to clear the way for any quickie parking jobs from people who were running into a store or friend's apartment to get something. Wednesday was a fully open day, as the Post Office was open, all grocery stores, banks, etc., as people started going out to complete errands like getting food, signing corporate tax documents (a major tax corporate tax deadline was March 15th, sending accountants into a panic when clients couldn't come in to sign paperwork) and other business as usual.

Despite the 5-day parking ban on City streets, people did park on Main Street and side streets.  Plowed snow couldn't be removed completely from the street, thereby spilling into and narrowing the streets. With cars parallel parked further away from the sidewalk, driving down Main Street mainly consisted of driving in the middle of the road.

With Thursday being the new Monday as school was back in session and more businesses were open, everyone was out, making driving a very slow and careful experience. However, toward the afternoon when the sky was blue and the sun was shining, some people began to drive a little faster, turning quickly out of side streets and almost ramming into oncoming traffic who had to inch by slowly to let other cars by. Driving in Beacon was not fun on Thursday.

A pathway cleared for gym-goers to Hudson Valley Fitness and other neighboring shops.

A pathway cleared for gym-goers to Hudson Valley Fitness and other neighboring shops.

Stores on Main Street and side streets did their best to clear the sidewalk, and a path to the street itself so that you could get from your car through the thick wall of snow. Clearly, Hudson Valley Fitness has given you no excuse to not be able to get to a fitness class. Parking on this end of town is actually possible, the East End, what with the free parking lot located down the street from this P for Parking sign in this picture. Just head down Church Street to the large lot near Hudson Valley Brewing. See A Little Beacon Blog's Free Parking Guide for pictures and cross streets.

School's Out For Summer! Just Kidding - For Pre-Spring Break

Beacon City Schools shut down Tuesday during the storm, and Wednesday during the digout. Thursday was a 2hr Delay, which means families need to get their kids to school at 10:30am instead of 8:30am, and even earlier for the High School. Not all roads and sidewalks were 100% clear by the opening or the delayed opening, so the 2hr Delay did not make sense to some parents who have questioned other 2hr Delays called when no weather is happening at all, accept for a cold temperature of 20 degrees or blowing wind.

The plowed parking lot of Beacon High School.

The plowed parking lot of Beacon High School.

The plowed parking lot of Rombout Middle School.

The plowed parking lot of Rombout Middle School.

While Beacon City Schools had plowed parking lots in time for school to start, that act alone doesn't guarantee access to the schools. Several sidewalks from residential and private properties were not yet cleared, making walking to school not straightforward, and plowed snow remained in the street, making two-way traffic of kid drop-offs very congested.

A Proposed Alternative to the 2-Hour School Delay

Quite possibly the most controversial topic that parents discuss amongst themselves and to administrators is the justified or unjustified calling of a snow day or 2hr delay. In Beacon, the formula for such calls has not been clearly stated by the current Super Intendant or Board of Education president, broadly citing child safety as the reason, when emailed by parents including this parent to ask why, or for more specific details so that we can know when to except a 2hr delay on clear sunny days.

Two years ago during a normal snowfall, all districts around Beacon closed - except Beacon - really throwing a wrench into the logic. During a meeting with the Super Intendant, it was told to me in that meeting that those schools were fulfilling a contractual day off for teachers that had been negotiated by the Teacher Union and the schools were looking for a day in the schedule to grant it. Beacon, that particular time, did not want to go that route. Despite the argument that school is not childcare, school is in fact a solid schedule, and when that schedule is disrupted, adjustments need to be made quickly and at times jeopardize jobs or important medical appointments.

The trouble with 2hr delays in the morning is that at times, it is not safer, and did not feel safer during this week as the entire district poured out in the late morning to walk and drive children to school. If walking, it was in the middle of the street when a sidewalk wasn't available. If driving, it was in the middle of the street to drive around walkers and other parked cars. Getting more than one child to different schools certainly took longer by sometimes half and hour to drive what normally took five minutes, if roads were closed by the National Guard in order to clear sidewalks or streets. Beacon doesn't have 100% busing for all kids, so several children walk to school in the morning, either with their friends, alone, or with a parent.

A safer alternative may be to wave the Late Pentalty, and open schools at the usual time, but allow kids and parents 2 hours to get there. This possibly stacks the time people leave (assuming everyone doesn't leave 5 minutes before the delayed open time, as they do during 2hr delays) in order to give them more time to dig out, slowly back down driveways, get unstuck from driveways, pickup unplanned carpools, and get through alternate routes to school.

That's not a sidewalk those boots are standing on, it's 2.5" of snow on top of the berm of the sidewalk. For some parents, drop-off is on the other side of the sidewalk, so getting the child over the mound was the challenge once getting through traffic to school. But at least there was a clear path in front of the school!

That's not a sidewalk those boots are standing on, it's 2.5" of snow on top of the berm of the sidewalk. For some parents, drop-off is on the other side of the sidewalk, so getting the child over the mound was the challenge once getting through traffic to school. But at least there was a clear path in front of the school!

Mostly unintentional blockages of sidewalks happened throughout the city. If you are not a walker, then you aren't used to using sidewalks. First and foremost on people's minds is getting to their cars in order to get to work or to the store. Some people shoveled a path from their door to the driveway, without shoveling the other side of the door. Or if neighbors didn't want to step on each other's shoveling, they left an un-shoveled no-mans land of a barrier of snow, like when you're sharing dessert with someone and neither of you wants to take the last bite. Mini-baracades like this were all over the City, which pushed more people into the streets who were trying to take what is normally a straight-forward walk. 

Shoveling in front of fences was actually dangerous, as the removal of the snow unbalanced the gate, causing sounds of buckling. So be careful walking past those fences!

Watch for buckling fences pushed by unbalanced yards of snow.

Watch for buckling fences pushed by unbalanced yards of snow.

All in all, Beacon is getting cleared pretty systematically, especially considering this amount of snow doesn't happen all of the time, so there aren't many protocols to follow. At least the weather didn't jump to 40degrees after a snowfall, as it has in the past, causing flooding. So we'll take the bright sun and colder temperature to let the snow gradually melt into the ground and fill the reservoirs for a replenished water supply.

Be Ready for DOT

And listen - don't park your car out on the street at night if your road hasn't been snow-sucked! You never know when those heroes from the Department of Transportation are going to swing by. Signs for the snow removal pictured below went up at possibly 1am, and the trucks came by at 6am to clear the snow from this side of the street on this block. I was awake at 1am so see the trucks getting ready - because that's my new pregnancy thing - awaking in the middle of the night.

Once the morning officially started for me at 6am to make a dent in this article (I don't write at night because I fall asleep while typing), while I was making coffee and stirring cat food (they like it soupy), I heard the trucks again, this time in blower mode. Little did I know my husband had parked the car in front of the house, and it was face to face with a giant DOT truck. I put on my cap and boots and dashed outside to move it, only to not notice when his prized glasses he got for Christmas from Luxe Optique (such a treat!) fell out of the car and subsequently under my tires as I put the car into Drive and Reverse several times to get it around the mounds of snow, and into our shared driveway, which already had 5 cars in it.

A casualty of the storm, this glasses  case is pretty impressive, in that the glasses didn't completely flatten and the lenses shatter. A man in the DOT truck saw the whole thing happen, and got out of his truck to pick up the crushed glasses case and hand it to me in the wee, dark hours of the morning. Someone has hawk-eyes and had his glasses on!

Photo Credit: All photos pictured here were taken by Katie Hellmuth Martin.