By Stephen Seitz
Some may have been lulled by the mild winter last year, but when winter returned with a vengeance this year, Vermont’s towns were ready for it.
“I think we’re on track,” said Killington Town Manager Deborah Schwartz. “We were prepared in terms of staff and equipment, and we’re going through the snow budget this year. The crew is handling storm after storm after storm, which is how it should be in Killington.”
Three winter storms last week left most of central Vermont with total new snow depths of 16 to 30 inches, depending on location, according to weather reports. The weather kept a lot of students home, and closed some businesses.
The ski resorts rejoiced. Okemo Mountain Resort reported that all 121 trails were open and 20 lifts running. Killington Mountain Resort reported 57 inches of new snow in February alone.
However, the storms also tested the mettle of Brendan McNamara, who took over as town manager in Cavendish five weeks ago.
“The crews have been awesome,” McNamara said.
McNamara has reason to be grateful for the calm forecast in the next week. After spending Feb. 15 on the roads, one of the plow trucks developed an issue with its electric system and burst into flames.
“The truck is a total loss,” he said, “and there’s significant damage to the garage, the foreman’s office and the tools.”
McNamara said the other trucks were covered in soot, their windows melted, and they reeked of smoke.
“The truck that burned was our oldest truck,” he said, “but the other two were 2016 models. One had 2,000 miles on it and the other had 4,000 miles. But nobody was hurt, and things are replaceable.”
In Ludlow, town manager Frank Heald said things were about where they should be for this time of year.
“We budget for around the middle, because we never know what sort of winter we’re going to have,” Heald said. “Right now we’re in the middle of winter, and the salt budget is ahead of the curve, but we only have the financials for December and January.”
Over in Rochester, Town Clerk Joanne McDonnell said there was plenty of snow piled up around town.
“The storms have really hit the overtime budget,” McDonnell said. “We have some substantial piles of snow, but hopefully, a day of 40-degree weather will bring them down a little. All in all, I’d say this year is about normal.”
Though the coming week is supposed to be somewhat mild, the first day of spring is five weeks away.
“As Yogi Berra used to say, ‘It ain’t over until it’s over,’” Heald said.