Region gets a powder day

  • Chris Devine walks on Main Street in Northampton on Thursday morning during the storm. GAZETTE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2020 7:54:58 PM
Modified: 12/17/2020 7:54:48 PM

EASTHAMPTON — As a tumultuous and difficult year comes to a close, Pioneer Valley residents were able to return to a normal, expected hardship on Thursday — shoveling sidewalks and driveways.

A snowstorm hit the region overnight on Wednesday into Thursday, dropping fresh powder across the Valley and turning it into a not-quite-winter-yet wonderland. Residents were outside on Thursday afternoon as the snow stopped falling, shoveling out from more than a foot of snow in many communities. Temperatures around 20 degrees kept the snow light and fluffy.

Unofficial observations reported to the National Weather Service showed that communities in the Hilltowns received the most snow in Hampshire County.

Volunteers with the grassroots Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network reported as much as 15½ inches of snow accumulation by 8 a.m. in Plainfield and 10½ inches in Westhampton. Trained spotters reported 12 inches of snow in Huntington, 10 inches in Northampton, 9 inches in north Amherst and 8 inches in Westhampton.

Typically, that amount of snow would have been cause for a snow day in school districts across the region. Hadley Public Schools, for example, declared a snow day for its students who are learning in-person.

However, with many students learning remotely in some capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some districts continued learning on Thursday. That was the case in Northampton, where some younger students have begun transitioning to hybrid learning but many grade levels remain remote.

Superintendent John Provost said that because those students were taking part in remote learning, the snow didn’t really change much. The reason for a snow day, he said, is to protect students and their families.

“There are days when the sidewalks aren’t shoveled, the roads are covered in snow and ice and we have a concern for student safety,” Provost said. “When you have students remote already without the need to travel, that safety concern no longer comes into play.”

Although students might have been disappointed to learn Thursday that they still had school, Provost noted that snow days have to be made up at the end of the school year. He said those add-on days typically have little educational value, whereas continuing classes on Thursday allowed for educational continuity.

Elsewhere, area residents simply got out their snow shovels and went about their day like hardened New Englanders.

“We’re open, wear skis!” the Chesterfield General Store & Cafe wrote on its Facebook page.

Reached by phone Thursday, owner Greg Monette said nobody had showed up on skis yet.

“The snowplow guys have all been through this morning, though,” Monette said.

The general store will be closed for the holidays beginning Sunday through Jan. 7, Monette noted.

“It’s hard to say we’ve had a successful year, but we did in relation to a lot of other businesses,” he said. “We adapted as fast as we could, and so it’s just a learning experience this first year.”

Temperatures are expected to moderate as the weekend approaches. The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 33 degrees on Friday, 29 degrees on Saturday and 35 degrees on Sunday.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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