Family trapped by snow

For the past three days, living on a short road off Maple Street in Attleboro was a little like Gilligan’s Island for Nancy Copeland, her partner Kim, and their three children.

When the blizzard began on Friday night, the Copelands’ house, the only house on Tremont Street, was snowed-in. Although a number of snowplows passed along Maple Street, none stopped to plow Tremont. With 2 or more feet of snow clogging the side street, the family was stuck.

By noon Monday, the Copelands had yet to see a plow and were feeling marooned.

“Saturday, it was a big storm, it was OK,” said Nancy who said she or Kim placed various calls and emails to the city about plowing their street and were told they had been placed on a list. Both she and Kim lost work Monday because they could not get out. “Sunday it was funny, but today it’s time.”

When no snowplow had shown up by early Monday afternoon, Kimmel Landscaping, a private company, agreed to plow out the Copelands and connect their driveway with a neighbors’ so they at last could escape to get to work or the market.

Richard Couto of George Street said that even after rains began to wash away some of the snowfall Monday, driving conditions remained difficult in his neighborhood.

“On my street it looks like they made one pass,” he said Monday afternoon. “The rest of the street is just impassable.”

While no one expected that recovering from the biggest snowstorm in years would be easy, several city residents complained that roads remained hazardous because of slush or snow.

Assistant DPW Superintendent Ron Dubuc said crews worked tirelessly to combat the blowing snow. About 80 vehicles, including 40 supplied by contractors, were involved in snow removal efforts.

Crews began battling the blizzard Friday afternoon and worked continuously until early Saturday afternoon before being withdrawn so exhausted drivers and equipment operators could rest. He said equipment was called back into service Saturday evening.

“I thought the guys did a good job,” he said.

As of Monday, Dubuc said almost all city roads had been plowed although “there may be one or two out in the country.” City crews continued removing snow and widening streets and were scheduled to perform additional cleanup in the downtown area Monday night.

City Councilor Richard Conti said he’s aware of a number of complaints coming into the city’s emergency operations center, set up to coordinate response to the storm.

“My sense is that a lot of people worked really, really hard but a lot of people are really upset,” said Conti who added that various breakdowns during the storm made the response more difficult. He said a new sander and a second highway truck broke down, forcing several mechanics to work overnight Saturday to make repairs.

Conti also said electric power that flickered on and off during the storm late Friday bedeviled the city’s computer systems used to coordinate storm response. He said he has offered to lend his support to Mayor Kevin Dumas if he feels consulting services are needed to fix vulnerabilities in the city’s systems.

Council President Frank Cook said he feels city departments responded admirably based on the storm’s severe conditions. And he said the city’s snow removal compared favorably with other communities.

“I work in Franklin and on my way to work streets that I saw were down to pavement where they weren’t in other towns,” he said.

Compared to the Blizzard of 1978, he said, the city fared particularly well.

“Back then it took days before some roads were opened,” he said.

Councilor Walter Thibodeau said that if city roads weren’t perfect, city departments did everything they could to avoid the worst consequences of the storm. He said many other communities also suffered problems in clearing streets, especially in Rhode Island.

“I think you have to consider the amount and the kind of snow you were dealing with,” said Thibodeau. He said the heavy snow stressed trucks and equipment and high winds undid some of the plowing by blowing snow right back onto roads.

Back on Tremont Street, the Copelands said they were just happy to be released from their castaway existence. Nancy said the family was running out of typical snow-day diversions used to pass the time.

“We did a lot of Legos,” she said. “The kids have done some sledding and we spent a lot of time posting on social media to keep people up with our situation.”


Sheila Oliver