January 5, 2024
• Needham received about six inches of snow this weekend, according to the National Weather Service, but in the days leading up to the snowfall, town employees readied themselves.
The following story was published prior to the storm:
Time to dig out that snow shovel. For the first time in nearly two years, Needham may finally see significant snow.
A storm moving through the east coast was projected to dump up to eight inches of snow Saturday night into Sunday, resulting in the first substantial snowfall in town since the spring of 2021, Public Works Director Carys Lustig said.
Leading into the weekend, predictions from a meteorology service showed “there is a high degree of probability” Needham will see at least four inches of snow, which is considered “a plowable event,” Lustig said. If that’s the case, about 27 pieces of equipment — including pickup trucks, sidewalk tractors and six- and 10-wheel dump trucks — could roll through streets and parking lots to clear the snowfall, Lustig said.
Due to the recent low snow winters, Needham has not had to salt yet this season, Lustig said. Residents may be scrambling to prepare for the wintry weather, and the town itself was in a precarious situation in November, when Lustig shared the department’s challenges with retaining contracted snow removers with the Select Board. Now, Needham is “in a better place than we were,” she said, and the entire DPW staff will be working the event.
“We’re in preparation mode right now,” Lustig said. “We’ve already had all of our training, we’ve already had all of our staff learn their routes, so we’re well-prepared.”
The possibility of rain later next week could, when combined with fallen snow, result in localized road flooding — an issue with which residents are all too familiar. Lustig said they’ll monitor the forecast for changes. But she said the winds should be “fairly moderate,” she said.
“Generally, your big concern is if you get stuff that clings to branches and clings to wires and then you get a certain type of wind, it could then create more power outages,” she said. “It doesn’t look like that’s what this event is going to be, just because the winds are reasonable, but we’re certainly preparing for all of those eventualities if they happen.”
The timing of the snow is also a positive, as Lustig expects there to be little disruption for commuters and students. Needhamites also have a reputation of “hunkering down for 12 to 24 hours” after a major snow event, Lustig said.
Though every storm is different, Lustig said crews will likely take about four hours to clear the snow, first on main roads and school and town parking lots. The town will take care of 50% of the snow removal, while contractors cover the other 50%, Lustig said.
“Our number-one priority during a snow event is public safety, so we want to make sure that police and fire can get to people’s homes in case there’s an emergency,” she said. “And then our secondary focus is on making sure the roads are passable so that somebody going at a reasonable speed can get through, and then obviously to open up the roads further so that they can be safe for daily traffic.”
The business district, as well as churches and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, are required to clear their sidewalks and maintain ADA compliance.
Police are asking locals to be patient as crews work and to exercise caution when driving. They also advise residents to clear their closest fire hydrant to provide firefighters access if needed.
Residents are encouraged to spread sidewalk salt after the snowfall, because the drastic rise and fall of temperatures the following day and night could result in “pretty significant freeze-thaw,” Lustig said.
Those removing snow from their driveways should not deposit it on roads or sidewalks, Lustig said. She added that plows could end up pushing snow to the end of residents’ driveways, though “it’s not intentional, it’s not malicious, the snow literally has to go somewhere.”
“We’re from New England, but we’re almost not used to snow,” Lustig said, “so this will be an interesting experience, getting back into what I would consider a more normal New England weather pattern.”