‘Road closed’ signs more than a suggestion: In Easthampton, drivers attempt to go up Mountain Road while it's buried in snow, closed

Monday, February 17, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — Mayor Karen L. Cadieux knew a lot about the city long before she took office Jan. 2. But Thursday morning, she said she learned about an issue that really surprised her.

“People try to drive up Mountain Road even though it’s closed” during severe snowstorms, she said.

Officials closed the road at 5 a.m. Thursday when the snow started to fall. It reopened around 8:30 a.m., Friday.

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They often decide to close the section of Route 141 during heavy storms because the steep, curvy road up Mount Tom is difficult to keep clear and safe.

To keep the road open, according to Highway Superintendent James Kicza Jr., the Highway Department would have to dedicate one truck to stay on the section for the whole storm, plowing and spreading thousands of dollars worth of salt to make sure it is not slippery. Closing it averts accidents there and frees up plow drivers to tend instead to more miles of road.

At the bottom of the mountain in Easthampton, signs and barricades alert motorists to the closure. But some individuals choose to ignore them, cutting around the sawhorses and relying on all-wheel-drive — or luck — to get them up the mountain. Others go around the barricades at the top of the mountain, near the Tavern on the Hill and the Holyoke city line, and try to head down the road.

Cadieux said she can’t imagine why someone would take the risk of trying to descend an unplowed, steep, curvy road.

“It happens all the time,” Kicza said. Often, they end up stranded partway up the road and have to be plowed out by city officials.

“The road is closed, and it’s closed for a reason,” Kicza said. “It’s for the safety of everyone.”

Often, there are issues when the storm winds down, too, she noted.

When plow truck drivers are working to clear Mountain Road at the end of the storm, so they can reopen it, they are sometimes met head-on by cars coming down the mountain as the plows are trying to go up and carefully direct the snow off the road and over the guardrail.

Kicza said Mountain Road would remain closed until the end of the storm Friday, and he does not recommend anyone attempt to use it until it is plowed.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.