Winter got off to a slow start this year, but accumulating snow made its unwelcome debut on the North Shore Sunday.
Lynn and surrounding communities only saw a few inches in the early morning hours, but it was the hours of sleet and freezing rain that followed that caused headaches for Department of Public Works crews and residents trying to clean up the mess.
It was unclear if a fatal crash in Saugus on Sunday afternoon, in which a person died after driving a car through a garage and tumbling off a cliff and down a 40-foot embankment, was related to the storm.
“The rain after the snow is really hurting us, but we have guys out salting and doing the best we can with what we have,” said Andrew Hall, Lynn Department of Public Works Commissioner on Sunday evening.
During the storm, Hall said there were 268 pieces equipment, DPW and contracted, on the roads, but by the storm’s completion, there were 15 trucks left cleaning up.
“The snow was coming down heaviest at 4 a.m. and then the persistent ice pellets all afternoon is really what caused us grief, not to mention the deep freeze we’re heading into,” Hall said. “I expect crews to be out there all night.”
When a full crew returns around 11 a.m., Hall said that will be 30 hours on the roads for the department.
“The most challenging part (of the storm) was the length of it,” said Robert Labossiere, Peabody Department of Public Services director. “The guys have been out since 6 p.m. (Saturday). Guys were very tired by the end of it. It just kept dragging on with all that sleet.”
Labossiere said crews had everything cleaned up after snow turned to rain, but then things became challenging when rain changed to sleet and kept piling back up again. Roads had to be continually scraped with plows which took a lot of time.
“It was disheartening for everyone when it changed back to the sleet,” he said. “Our employees and private contractors working for the city were out for long periods of time. They did a great job cleaning the road (on Sunday) We just ask people to drive slow … (with a chance of it changing to ice).”
Lynnfield DPW director John Tomasz said the storm was “just a pain.” Late Sunday afternoon, he reported crews had done pretty much all they could.
“It’s a very challenging one,” Tomasz said. “It doesn’t just snow, which would have been real easy. The sleet for eight, 10 hours, made it difficult. We did a pretty good job as far as getting the snow removed. The sleet, even scraping down, we couldn’t get as deep as we wanted to.”
Tomasz said he didn’t know how effective the salt that was put down on the roads would be with freezing temperatures that were expected to plummet into the single digits overnight.
“You’re going to need a warm day or two before getting everything cleared off there,” he said.
In Swampscott, DPW director and assistant town administrator Gino Cresta said clean-up efforts went well. Crews were out at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and didn’t go home until 2:30 p.m. the following day, with plans to return during the evening to salt the streets one last time.
Two hundred tons of salt were put down on the roads throughout the storm, Cresta said, who echoed other community department heads about the storm’s difficulty.
“The freezing rain never seemed to stop,” he said. “It was quite a challenge to stay ahead of it.”
Nahant Police Officer Matt Morneau said the storm was relatively minor compared to snowstorms last January, which caused widespread flooding.
Morneau said there were no crashes in town, aside from a minor one at the Nahant Rotary overnight that was handled by State Police. For the most part, he said people stayed off the roads.
“Everyone stayed inside, (which) gave crews the ability to treat the roads as best as they could,” he said.
DPW crews in Nahant were out for at least 24 hours with plans to return in the early morning hours on Monday.
Although the storm wrapped up by Sunday evening, people are still advised to take it slow on the roads as clean-up is expected to continue on Monday.
Saugus DPW director Brendan O’Regan did not return a phone call seeking comment.