Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, January 28, 2016

We're all in this together: Plainfield digs out of winter storm

At the corner of Watchung and North Avenues by the train station,
only the top of the "Detour" sign can be seen.

As Plainfield slowly but surely digs out from the monster storm of 2016 -- word from City Hall is we got nearly 30 inches -- I thought it would be good to take stock of where we are and how we got here "snow-wise".

The main roads remained passable throughout -- thanks to advance planning by public safety and DPW officials.

Red-tags sprouted on parking meters downtown on Friday, in advance of the storm, and did a great deal to encourage drivers to park elsewhere so plows coulld get up to the curb once the storm came. Working together made it work -- the best I think we have ever seen.

John Louise and the DPW crews worked tirelessly for 36 hours straight once the storm hit to keep on top of the accumulations. They deserve a big "thank you" from us all for their backbreaking efforts!

They didn't get in front of your house at once?

The DPW works on a plan for such emergencies. Streets are prioritized and worked on from most urgent (main roads) on down the chain. Eventually, everyone is taken care of. It's as fair a system as I think you can have.

Our own driveways are another matter.

We were not able to get anything done until Tuesday afternoon. With a 150-foot gravel drive, it can't be plowed. The guy who does it with a snowblower had me on his list, but it took two and a half days for my turn to come. Even then, he couldn't get the snow too close around the cars (because it would throw gravel), so there was still heavy shoveling to do before we could get out.

There must be many other stories like ours.
Even though we couldn't get out, my partner Nat had to go to work on Monday. A co-worker gave him a ride, but he needed to get to the curb.

After wading through the drifts all the way to the roadway, he slipped in the neighbor's driveway apron and went down -- "like a beached whale", he says -- right by the roadway.

To his surprise, every driver that crawled by stopped, rolled their window down and asked if he was OK or needed help. He was able to right himself, but remarked on "the kindness of strangers" (a nod to Blanche DuBois).

But I hear that kindness is not only found among West 7th Street drivers. Many neighbors throughout the city help one another in storm situations by checking on elderly neighbors and friends, making sure they are warm and safe and shoveling their sidewalks as needed. No one hears about these little acts of kindness that help make a town a community.

Most people are also kind as they drive (though certainly not all!), taking special care for pedestrians forced to walk in the street and being watchful at corners that may be piled up with snow from plowing and whose corner-cuts may be flooded with snow melt. They deserve a nod, too.

And downtown property owners and storekeeprs work constantly to keep the sidewalks cleared and free of ice.

It all helps.

Two views of the public parking lot
behind Verizon's Park Avenue switching station.

Two views of snow at the Park-Madison parking deck.
Most folks probably don't give the snow much thought, once their street and driveway are taken care of.

But, what happens to all that snow?

Plows push it to the side of the road, but the main roads must be made clear from curb to curb, not only for traffic, but also so emergency vehicles can get through.

This means removing a lot of snow.

A lot. As in tens upon tens of tons.

Where does the bad snow go to die?

Public and private parking lots and private vacant lots all over town are piled high with mountains of snow pushed and trucked there to die.

These snow piles last weeks (or even months, in shaded places), until, like the Wicked Witch they finally melt away.

This also is part of the "weather warriors" work, even if we don't see it or aren't aware of it.
Some of the response to the storm takes place quietly as I noted above,but the city is also active in pushing the word out to residents about what is going on.

If you were not aware of the progress in the cleanup, you need to put yourself in the loop.

Plainfield (and Union County) have adopted several emergency communications methods that keep residents informed -- by phone, text message and email.

Most people should get the robocalls delivered by the City.

I also get email alerts from the county (sign up here) and the City (go here to sign up).

But my favorite is Nixle, to which Plainfield, Green Brook, Watchung and Warren belong (sign up here).

Nixle is great because it sends a text message giving just the information you need to know (a particular street is closed, power is out in a certain area, icy roads, flooding or traffic lights out, etc.)

The neat thing is you get the message as long as your phone is working.

Whichever method you prefer (I'm a belt-and-suspenders guy, and have all three), you owe it to yourself to sign up now for these services if you haven't already. And get your family to do the same.
And now, for some bad news.

Those emergency alert systems all delivered a message Wednesday evening: Residents must have the snow cleared from sidewalks by Friday or face warnings.

This is really being quite nice. It means the City has already given residents several days grace period after the snow stopped falling.

And the alert said only that "warnings" would be issued -- not tickets.

Plainfielders can consider themselves well-treated by the municipality. In Somerville, as the Ledger reports (see here), residents face fines up to $1,250 per offense for failing to get the snow off the sidewalks.

Yes, in Plainfield we are lucky indeed. And we know we are all in it together.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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