Thursday, February 20, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Meteorologists had predicted light snow flurries producing a coating to a few inches of snow Wednesday afternoon, followed by rain.
Instead, many were caught by surprise when between three and five inches of snow fell around the Pioneer Valley in just over two hours right after noon. Rain fell throughout the evening.
On the popular Facebook page “Dave Hayes The Weather Nut,” the amateur weather enthusiast from Deerfield summed up the afternoon precipitation. “Now THAT was some heavy snow.”
Many of his 8,351 followers agreed, adding comments like, “We totally weren’t expecting that!” and “a total whiteout in Amherst.” They also described their sometimes hours-long commutes on slippery roads and recounted traffic jams caused when vehicles stopped on hills for red lights and could not get going again.
That’s what happened to a PVTA bus attempting to go west on Route 9 on the hill between the intersection of Elm, Main, State and New South streets and the Smith College gates.
Northampton Police said the bus got stuck there about 2:30 p.m. and downtown traffic was jammed until a plow scraped away enough snow for it to continue on its route.
Hayes called this season “the winter that never ends.” While the National Weather Service is predicting more precipitation through the end of the week, it will likely be rain and freezing rain showers as opposed to snow, as temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s during the days.
Saturday through Tuesday, the forecast calls for partly sunny skies. Temperatures will start in the mid-40s but be back to the high 20s by Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Other than the PVTA bus getting stuck, Northampton Police said they did not get any reports of significant problems during the afternoon.
In Easthampton, a dispatcher said no accidents were reported throughout the afternoon, but several cars slid off roads and had to be towed out. Mountain Road, the steep section of Route 141 that winds up the Easthampton side of Mount Tom, was closed between 1 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. due to the snow. A parking ban was in effect from 3 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday.
A dispatcher in Amherst said police dealt with a number of accidents and stuck vehicles throughout the afternoon and evening, but declined to give details.
Elsewhere in the region, Massachusetts State Police reported that an SUV rolled over on I-91 northbound in West Springfield about 3 p.m. No one was injured but the right lane was closed, which further slowed the already crawling traffic. At 9:30 p.m., police said there had been several other spinouts and minor accidents on the highway, but nothing serious.
The speed limit was reduced to 40 mph on the Massachusetts Turnpike from the New York border to Springfield from approximately 1 to 6 p.m.
While the prospect of a few days of warm weather and melting snow sounds nice, it may mean the start of a new problem — flooding. In Chicago, where the 50-degree weather arrived a day earlier than it will in New England, officials were concerned Wednesday about the flooding that would occur if the snow melts at a faster rate than it can be absorbed by the ground.
The National Weather Service warned residents there that the city’s drainage system may be overwhelmed with the water and flooding may result.
And with much snow already sitting on most roofs in New England, there are concerns that the predicted rain will add weight to the snowpack.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency posted a warning on its website (www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/mema) about collapses or leaks due to ice dams causing water to build up on roofs. It suggested snow rakes be used to clear snow, but advised against using them from ladders and near power lines. Flat roofs can be shoveled, “but only if it is determined that the roof is safe to stand upon,” according to the agency.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at email@example.com.