Mayor Cites Public Safety, 'Sheer Volume of Snow,' In Snow Emergency Decision
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said crews worked all weekend to clear snow, but streets are still unsafe.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said it was a concern for pubic safely, particularly at intersections near schools, that prompted city officials to prolong a snow emergency that was originally supposed to end Monday at 6 p.m.
Asked if clearing snow off city streets was taking longer than expected, Curtatone said, "It's a lot of snow."
The mayor, speaking on the phone Monday afternoon, made reference to the large mounds of snow lining the city's roadways, often forcing residents to walk in the streets because sidewalks aren't clear.
The situation, he said, is a "treacherous public safety challenge."
The mayor commended the "hard work" of Department of Public Works employees and independent contractors who have been working to clear snow.
"We have one of the best snow removal operations" in the area, Curtatone said, adding the city has committed 5,500 man hours, not including hours logged by supervisors, and 56 plows to the snow-removal effort. In total, the city has deployed about 150 pieces of equipment to deal with the snow, he said.
Somerville received at least 28 inches of snow during an historic storm that battered the region Friday and Saturday.
Curtatone said crews were working all weekend, including Sunday, to clear snow, and "we logged in every possible hour" of time available, given the requirement that snow removal workers get set amounts of rest. The mayor said workers are "exhausted."
He also said the city was working to hire additional independent contractors to assist in the cleanup effort.
In addition to the "sheer volume of snow," Curtatone said, "We're also in a very active weather pattern … that compounds an already difficult situation."
Somerville could receive more snow Wednesday night, according to a Monday afternoon forecast by the National Weather Service.
With large mounds of snow forcing pedestrians into the streets and serving as large sight-line obstructions for drivers, the mayor and superintendent of schools, Tony Pierantozzi, decided to cancel schools on Tuesday and Wednesday, Curtatone said.
In Somerville, there are no school buses. Students walk to school or get rides from parents and guardians.
"We'll reevaluate on Wednesday" whether or not to open schools on Thursday, the mayor said.
Curtatone had no predictions, even ballpark predictions, about when the city would lift the current snow emergency. It's "in effect until further notice," he said, saying it will last "as long as needed."
Somerville issued a citywide alert Sunday saying the snow emergency would end at 6 p.m. Monday. Then, at about 1:30 p.m. on Monday, it issued another alert saying the snow emergency would remain in effect.
Curtatone thanked residents, saying they "have been extremely cooperative" during this snow storm. "The public's cooperation had been extremely helpful," he said.
As for the cost of the cleanup, Curtatone said, "We haven't accounted all the costs" at the moment, but the storm would be "pushing the limits of our snow budget."
The mayor had some warnings for residents:
"Keep those kids off those snow mounds," he said, because drivers can't see kids playing on the mounds.
To drivers, he said, "Slow down."
He also called on residents to make sure the furnace vents outside their homes are clear of snow. They should also make sure the tailpipes of their cars are clear of snow, he said.
As of Monday afternoon the Somerville Fire Department had responded to five incidents involving high levels of carbon monoxide in people's homes, the mayor said, and he pointed to tragic cases in Boston in which people, including an 11-year-old boy, have died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.