Opinion

A blizzard’s lesson

Coastal tide-driven flooding, blizzard-force winds and heavy drifting snow — just another winter day in New England. Public officials and electronic media made sure everyone within earshot knew Snowmageddon was descending on the region Thursday but the storm’s start-of-the-year timing offers potentially valuable lessons for dealing with the remainder of the winter.

A few stubborn or lazy drivers ignored parking bans announced Wednesday and woke up Thursday to find their cars ticketed or towed off streets in local communities. Their owners will vent their consternation to parking clerks today but it is hard to feel sympathy for people who impede snow plowing and potentially emergency response efforts by leaving their car on the streets.

City and town officials will be well served if they announce in the wake of the blizzard how many cars were towed in their respective communities and the exact procedures for notifying drivers about snow parking bans prior to storms.

Empty streets are absolutely essential for public works crews to effectively and quickly clear snow. One car flaunting an emergency parking ban, never mind two, impedes plowing efforts and reduces the ability of plow crews to clear streets to the curb and quickly restore on-street parking.

Emergency responses often spike during storms and snow and storm-related flooding add critical seconds to a fire or medical response in the middle of a blizzard. Snow plowing efforts impeded by parked vehicles add to delays that can determine if someone survives a fire or accident or dies.

A major storm just days into 2018 is also a chance to make sure everyone is signed up to be a soldier in the war against winter. A blizzard followed by a deep freeze means seniors, disabled individuals, and anyone else with reduced mobility relies on friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they are OK and safe.

The 10 minutes it takes to walk up the street and check on someone is time well spent even if it only provides a chance for someone stuck indoors to talk to someone who cares about their welfare.

An early year winter storm is also a good opportunity for people to comprehend the importance of clearing sidewalks and keeping them ice-free. Schools were closed on Thursday and many remain closed today, but children will be walking to school next week and their safety and well-being depends on safe sidewalks.

Winter road and snow-clearing accidents claim lives every winter. But the biggest worry for emergency response officials is cold weather-related fires. Winter’s first major storm is a critical opportunity for fire departments to remind residents to not heat homes with kitchen stoves and to exercise extreme caution using space heaters, extension cords and candles.

Laws governing reasonable heat provisions and maintenance should be underscored and enforced by city and town officials to ensure no one resorts to a stove or faulty space heater to warm their house.

Winter can be a beautiful part of living in New England, provided everyone uses common sense and embraces the spirit of cooperation to get through the cold months.

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