BENNINGTON — Mother Nature might have saved her biggest performance of the season for last, with a grand finale of a powerful nor’easter bearing down on New England that could account for over a quarter of the entire winter’s snowfall in some areas.
Despite the brief peek we got at spring over the weekend, the mid-March storm is shaping up to be the “biggest snow event of the year,” according to Meteorologist Tom Wasula of the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
“It’s not uncommon in mid-March. We’ve had some big events over the years,” Wasula said. “We could go back five years ago to March 14, we call it the Pi Day Storm. That was a big one. And we had the blizzard of ‘93 — it’s actually the 30th anniversary (today) — that was an even larger storm.”
While this storm won’t have the widespread effect or quite the destructive potential of that so-called “Storm of the Century” that slammed the entire East Coast on the same date three decades ago, 2023’s version is expected to be hazardous in its own right.
Bennington and Manchester can expect at least a foot of snow, with higher elevations to the east looking at precipitation in the range of 18 to 30 inches, according to Wasula. The National Weather Service’s storm warning is in effect from 5 p.m. Monday until 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.
“We’re looking at a long-duration snow storm, and it continues through the day tomorrow and doesn’t diminish until Tuesday night towards Wednesday morning,” Wasula said. “Snow rates could increase to 1 to 2 inches an hour overnight tonight.”
The inbound precipitation is not only expected to be high in volume, but also dense and heavy. With wind gusts up to 35 to 45 miles per hour expected to hit this afternoon, it looks to be a recipe for power outages.
“What our team is really doing is watching the water content of that snow,” said Kristin Carlson, vice president of strategy and external relations for Green Mountain Power. “When that wet, heavy snow falls, it can sit on trees and lines like cement.”
Carlson said teams from the utility are positioned all over the state in preparation for the storm, with external crews also being pulled in from other states.
“One of the most important things we’re focused on is the safety of our crews and our customers,” she added. “We know this storm could be a long-duration event over a few days, where roads and travel conditions could be changing and dangerous at times. So we really want people to be aware of the road conditions and stay safe.”
Carlson also issued the standard reminder for everyone to stay away from downed power lines, as they could still be energized.
Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd said the town is well-prepared ahead of the nor’easter.
“We’re ready for the storm. That’s not an issue,” he said. “We’ve had very little snow this year, so as far as salt and sand go, we’re prepared.”
Hurd also mentioned that those in need of shelter will be taken care of if the need arises, even if there is a shortage of beds.
“As far as folks that are homeless, generally what the police do is go out and locate them and warn them of the situation, and encourage them to seek shelter,” Hurd said, even mentioning an extreme scenario recently. “We have housed one individual, when we had that very cold spell, in the lobby of the (Police Department). That’s generally how we approach these things.”
Fortunately, there does still appear to be room at the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless, according to Executive Director Chloe Viner Collins.
“It changes constantly,” Viner Collins said. “We’ve been at capacity at all shelters most of the winter, but every now and then, we do have availability.”
Viner Collins also mentioned that housing Bennington County’s homeless population might be increasing soon, as two programs that help house them might soon be coming to an end.
“Especially with the hotel voucher program ending March 15 and the adverse weather (criteria) ending March 30, those programs are ending within the next month,” she said.
“The Legislature is in talks about potential ways to extend it, but it’s unclear at this point if it will be extended,” she added. “If it’s not, we’re looking at over 200 people who are placed in local motels who will have nowhere to go.”
Those seeking shelter are encouraged to call the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless directly at 802-442-2424.