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Remembering The Ghoulishly-Bad Weather Of 2011 And 2012

Remembering The Ghoulishly-Bad Weather Of 2011 And 2012

In fact, if forecasters are correct, anyone daring to venture out for a bit of trick-or-treating better have their raincoat and umbrella handy. It promises to be ghoulishly damp.

But one doesn’t have to venture too far back into memory to recall a time when New England’s fickle weather patterns played havoc on would-be Halloween revelers. In fact, most readers probably remember what happened less than a decade ago, when the only “treat” residents were provided were a lot of downed tree limbs and power outages.

For two straight years, Cheshire was pounded with late-October storms, the likes of which hadn’t been seen for some time before and, thankfully, have not returned in recent years. The storm that generated the most attention arrived on Oct. 29, 2012 — Hurricane Sandy. The devastating storm slammed into the East Coast and left countless residents without power for days on end.

But for Cheshire, it was the storm from the year prior that did the most damage locally, in part because of its peculiar nature.

October is, on average, snowfall-free according to data from The Weather Channel. Connecticut rarely sees even a dusting of accumulation so early in the fall season, to the point where the annual average is listed as zero for the region.

In the days leading up to Halloween in 2011, however, weather forecasters began to warn that something unusual was happening. With temperatures expected to drop and precipitation moving into the area, October’s autumnal feel was about to get very wintry in nature.

The lead story in the Nov. 3, 2011 edition of The Herald, explained what happened:

Snow began to fall on Saturday morning, Oct. 29, and by early afternoon some residents had already lost power. By the end of the storm Sunday morning, more than 90 percent of Cheshire was in the dark.

The Autumn Nor’easter, as it’s being called, rocked Cheshire, the state, and the East Coast over the weekend, causing major damage and leaving millions without power. Many residents are still without electricity, days after the snow had stopped falling. 

At its peak, 95 percent of the town was without power, and slowly the number has been dropping. On Tuesday, outages were reported at around 60 percent. By Wednesday afternoon, the outages were down to 48 percent. That meant that there were still over 6,000 customers without power. 

It was in many respects a “perfect storm” of variables that led to such widespread devastation. While Connecticut is by no means unaccustomed to dealing with heavy snow, even accumulations of over a foot, a mid-fall snowstorm was an entirely different animal. With many trees still heavily laden with leaves, and temperatures just under 32 degrees, the wet snow piled onto tree limbs, snapping many in half and sending them careening for the nearest power lines. At the peak of the storm, nearly 800,000 Connecticut homes were reported as having lost power.

The outages coupled with colder-than-normal temperatures sent many in town scrambling for a way to stay warm. As The Herald reported, most residents found their way to Cheshire High School for such refuge:

The normally boisterous cafeteria of Cheshire High School was a little more reserved over the past few days, as it has served as an emergency shelter for dozens and dozens of residents who were without power following the freak October snowstorm.

Inside Cheshire High School, the cafeteria was turned into an emergency shelter for residents in need, after the Cheshire Senior Center was no longer capable of handling the crowd. On Monday night, there were more than 60 residents sleeping in cots throughout the cafeteria. Many more came and went through the duration of major power outages, starting on Saturday night. At some point, there were 200 people in the cafeteria eating supper.

Some residents came in the morning for a fresh cup of coffee and some warmth, while others wanted to take a hot shower. A nurse was on hand, as well as a police officer, to check in and make sure residents were doing okay. School cafeteria staff also cooked hot meals for those at the shelter.

With snow covering sidewalks, trees down across town, and the majority of homes still without power, most chose not to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night in 2011. Parents organized trunk-or-treat events around town to compensate, and several of those are still going strong eight years later. 

It would take weeks for the town to properly clean up the debris that had been left from October’s freak snowstorm, but it would serve as a good training session for the next year.

Unlike the “Autumn Nor’easter” that somewhat surprised the Northeast, plenty of warning accompanied Hurricane Sandy in 2012. As the strong storm made its way up the eastern seaboard, it became clear that, eventually, it was going to hit the tri-state area with a vengeance.

On Oct. 29, it did just that, and it left a swath of destruction in its path.

In total, the storm caused approximately $70 billion worth of damage, killing at least 54 people. New Jersey was hit especially hard, and New York City experienced a storm surge that flooded roads, tunnels, and subway lines, and cut off power for days.

Cheshire, and Connecticut as a whole, got off easy in comparison, and as The Cheshire Herald’s Nov. 1, 2012 front page article explained, residents were thankful that the storm hadn’t been as catastrophic as had been expected:

As Hurricane Sandy moved out of Connecticut, Cheshire residents woke up on Tuesday morning to minimal damage and a few scattered power outages.

The storm came and went much quicker than many experts had expected, and left several communities, especially those along the Connecticut shoreline, reeling. Locally, the damage wasn’t nearly as widespread and power outages were relatively minor. On Tuesday morning, fewer than 400 customers were without power, according to Connecticut Light & Power. By 10 a.m. yesterday, there were 49. At the peak, nearly 1,800 customers were without power in town.

Across the state, more than 600,000 people were in the dark following the storm.

Local officials admitted that the experience of the previous year had helped not only the Town but also its residents to better prepare for the Sandy’s worst:

Town crews, as well as workers from CL&P, were stationed in Cheshire to help clear debris quickly and restore power as soon as possible. Milone felt the Town was ready for the storm with a “proactive response.”

“We learned last year that residents lacked a lot of basics, and I think they were more prepared,” (Town Manager Michael) Milone said. “We had no major damage or disruption. We had a good plan, but it’s only as a good as the execution. I think everyone did a good job and worked together.”

Sandy marked the third major weather event to hit Connecticut in two years. Approximately two months before the October snowstorm of 2011, Tropical Storm Irene left its own wake of destruction. Then, in 2013, a blizzard hit Connecticut in February, piling up more than two feet of snow and ice, resulting in numerous roof collapses. Thankfully, Connecticut’s weather has been much more quiet of late.

So remember, if you have to dodge a few raindrops this Halloween night or are forced to go trick-or-treating a day later … it could always be worse.


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