A true snowpocalypse, this blizzard of March 2017 will seal the deal that we can't expect winter's end in the Hudson Valley until April. Remember when we had those Summer Numbers during the nice Presidents Day long weekend? How the shops were wrapping it up with Winter Clearance sales? Reflecting on how they made it through the winter? Hopefully you heeded our advice and stocked up on winter clothes and boots then, because then this storm happened, leaving 2 to 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 a new snowfall is forecast for Saturday. This snow state has happened in the past, when 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 Removes Snow
The National Guard was called in to remove snow from designated areas. We emailed the Mayor's Office to get a definitive answer on what the National Guard's instructions were, as to what areas 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 about the State of Emergency, and the subsequent Modification. Troops could be seen up 9D on both sides 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.
The snow started falling early Monday morning, and continued all day Tuesday, letting up around 6 pm. Shoveling midway through the storm seemed pointless, as so much more was expected to fall. People began digging out their homes on Monday night, before it turned into an all-day affair on Tuesday. Many people took a snow day from work and school to just dig out of their houses - literally, needing to shovel off the porch to even get to the driveway. Snow responders, including people who drive contracted tow trucks and 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 nowhere to go, as New York City was also buried and Metro-North and other commuter trains were shut down. Beacon's State of Emergency kept cars and people off the streets in Beacon. In the street was not somewhere you wanted to be, anyway, as snow plow trucks rumbled through trying to get to different neighborhoods. Trash was picked up as usual, but a lot of people couldn't get to their garbage cans (unless they were sharp thinkers like Beacon resident Arie Bram, who pulled his cans out before the storm hit).
Paths in the snow proved to be hard to come by, as some sidewalks - residential, business and public-owned - were not cleared completely. Some hadn't been touched at all by Thursday, since such a massive amount of snow needed immediate clearing, making it difficult for first responders to get into a building. Keep in mind, even though several sidewalks had been cleared by snowblower and shovel, 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 owner not clearing 100% of a sidewalk impacts basic accessibility on an entire route to the train station, for example.
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 above 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 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 work starting overnight. On Wednesday, the Health Center was open to patients, including seniors, children, pregnant women and disabled people.
Citizens who do not have driveways or a place to park their cars sought spots in the public parking lots, for which the 24-hour limit remained in effect. But with so much snow, there was nowhere to move the cars. Residents visited the lots at night to shovel their cars out and lot-hop to avoid the ticket for exceeding the 24-hour 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. He had one car at the lot next to Beacon Bread Company, and another in a neighbor's driveway. He is pictured here digging out the first of two vehicles on Tuesday night.
Some private businesses, such as Halvey Funeral Home, plowed early Thursday morning, completely clearing their sidewalks and street parking, a benefit to their clients as well as residents. Other establishments, like St. Andrew's Episcopal Church on South Avenue, had completely cleared sidewalks, which was helpful for their congregation as well as kids walking to the elementary school just one block down the road. But plenty of homes, which might have elderly residents or even be abandoned, had not shoveled yet, making it difficult to walk to school, as kids and parents were forced to walk in the street.
No Parking on City Streets
The orange signs started going up on Wednesday (according to eyewitnesses; 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 apartment to get something. Wednesday was a fully open day, as the post office, all grocery stores, banks, etc. reopened, as people started emerging to run errands like getting food, signing corporate tax documents (a major corporate tax deadline was March 15, sending accountants into a panic when clients couldn't come in to sign paperwork) and conduct other business as usual.
Despite the five-day parking ban on city streets, people did park on Main Street and side streets. Because of that, plowed snow couldn't be removed completely from the street, and thereby spilled into and further narrowed the streets. With cars parallel-parked farther 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 schools and more businesses reopened, many people were out and about, 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 oncoming traffic, which was inching slowly among other cars. Driving in Beacon was not fun on Thursday.
Stores on Main Street and side streets did their best to clear the sidewalk, and make a path to the street itself so that potential customers could get from their cars through the thick wall of snow. Clearly, Hudson Valley Fitness (above) made sure their members had no excuse to miss getting to a fitness class. Parking on the East End of town is actually possible, what with the free parking lot located down the street from the "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 2-hour delay, which means families had to get their kids to school at 10:30am instead of 8:30am (earlier for the high school). Not all roads and sidewalks were 100% clear by the opening or the delayed opening, so the 2-hour delay did not make sense to some parents who have questioned other 2-hour delays (sometimes called when no weather is happening at all, except for a chilly temperature of 20 degrees or blowing wind).
While Beacon City Schools had plowed parking lots in time for school to start, that act alone didn't guarantee access to the schools. Several sidewalks from residential and private properties were not yet cleared, making parents take convoluted paths while walking kiddos to school. Some plowed snow remained in the street, making two-way traffic during 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 with administrators is the justified or unjustified calling of a snow day or 2-hour delay. In Beacon, the formula for such calls has not been clearly stated by the current superintendent or Board of Education president; instead, the broad "child safety" is cited. Nothing specific has been made available to parents (including this one) who have emailed to ask why, or for more specific details so that we can know when to expect a 2-hour 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 superintendent, I was told that those schools were fulfilling a contractual day off for teachers that had been negotiated by the teachers' union and the schools were looking for a day in the schedule to grant it. Beacon, at that particular time, did not want to go that route. Despite the argument that school is not childcare, school in fact offers parents and kids a solid schedule, and when that schedule is disrupted, adjustments need to be made quickly and at times those changes may jeopardize jobs or important medical appointments.
The trouble with 2-hour delays in the morning is that at times, it is not safer. It 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, pedestrians headed for the middle of the street when a clear sidewalk wasn't available. If driving, cars headed to the middle of the street to detour around walkers and parked cars. Where roads were closed by the National Guard to clear sidewalks or streets, it took much longer to get more than one child to more than one school. A drive that normally takes five minutes took over half an hour. (Beacon doesn't have busing for all kids, so some 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 penalty, and open schools at the usual time, but allow kids and parents two hours to get there. This could stagger the time people leave (assuming everyone doesn't leave five minutes before the delayed-open time, as they do during 2-hour delays) in order to give everyone more time to dig out, slowly back down driveways, get unstuck from driveways, pick up unplanned carpool pals, and get through alternate routes to school.
Mostly unintentional blockages of sidewalks happened throughout the city. If you are not a frequent walker, then you might not be used to using sidewalks. First and foremost on most 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 unshoveled no man's 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-barricades like this were all over the city, which pushed more people into the streets as they tried to take what is normally a straightforward 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!
All in all, Beacon is getting cleared pretty systematically. Especially considering that we don't often receive this much snow at once, there aren't many protocols to follow. At least the weather didn't jump up to 40 degrees after a snowfall, as it has in the past, causing flooding. So we'll take the bright sun and colder temperatures 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 1 am, and the trucks came by at 6 am to clear the snow from this side of the street on this block. I was awake at 1 am (because that's my new pregnancy thing - waking in the middle of the night) so I saw the trucks getting ready.
Once the morning officially started for me at 6 am 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 the prized glasses the hubs got for Christmas (from Luxe Optique, such a treat!) fell out of the car and subsequently under my tires as I toggled between Drive and Reverse to get around the mounds of snow, and into our shared driveway, which already had five 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.