Winter is back

Late-season snowstorm buries Bennington

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BENNINGTON — Those who were able to do so stayed huddled indoors on Tuesday as a blizzard brought two feet of snow and white-out conditions to the region.

The National Weather Service upgraded its winter storm warning to a blizzard warning. The center had announced on Monday that if conditions, notably the wind speed, increased from what was projected, then the warning would be upgraded. On Monday, the center predicted wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour, lower than what would qualify as a blizzard, but the new warning issued on Tuesday warned of much faster winds, up to 45 miles per hour.

The blizzard warning will be in effect until 4 a.m. on Wednesday, while the winter storm watch will remain in effect until 8 p.m. on Wednesday. NWS Albany urged people not to travel, as conditions were extremely dangerous, but said that if one must travel, they should keep a winter survival kit with them at all times and, if stranded, remain with the vehicle.

The Weather Channel is referring to this storm as "Winter Storm Stella." The NWS does not name winter storms.

"Most areas of the state are likely to eventually see up to two feet of snow with gusty winds creating drifts and whiteout conditions, which creates some safety concerns," said Mark Bosma, of the Vermont State Police, "The storm is forecast to intensify throughout Tuesday. Travel will become increasingly difficult, with some of the worst conditions during the Tuesday evening commute through Wednesday morning. "

State offices closed at noon on Tuesday, and most of the schools in the state were closed as well. Governor Phil Scott said in a release that the Agency of Administration would determine by Tuesday evening if government offices would be open on Wednesday. "We continue to closely monitor the situation and will keep the public informed on new developments," he said, "I want to thank all state employees - and emergency personnel across Vermont - who have been working to prepare over the last few days, and who will continue to work throughout the storm."

Scott also urged the public to avoid unnecessary travel. "(the Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security) is regularly communicating with the National Weather Service and is ensuring our local and town Emergency Management Directors are updated with the latest information," he said, "Communication with local utilities, other states and across Vermont State agencies, as well as coordination with VTrans, Vermont State Police and other public safety officials, is also ongoing. In preparation, VTrans is on 24-hour operation, and has 250 plow trucks active statewide, with an additional 25 trucks available and ready, as needed. The agency has approximately 375 licensed drivers available."

After a largely mild winter, local skiers and ski areas are excited by the late-season recreational opportunities provided by the blizzard. "Just a few hours into Stella and already 5 drifty inches on the ground," Bromley Mountain Ski Resort of Peru posted on their Facebook page Tuesday morning, "Snowing 2-3 inches per hour right now with no signs of slowing down any time soon!"

Other businesses were forced to close due to the storm. In downtown Bennington, The Gift Garden closed at 11 a.m., and It's Heavenly HolyCow Frozen Yogurt was closed all day, among others. State courts and court offices announced they were closed. Southwestern Vermont Medical Center announced that its non-essential offices and practices would close by 2 p.m. The emergency room remained open.

For weather alerts throughout the day, you can sign up for text and email alerts at vtalert.gov. You can also follow the National Weather Service at Facebook.com/NWSAlbany.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567 ex. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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