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And now, the wind and cold

By Judy Benson

Publication: theday.com

Published December 29. 2012 10:00AM   Updated December 29. 2012 11:54PM
Tim Cook/The Day
Dunkin Donuts employee Josh Wildowsky shakes snow off of his shovel Saturday after clearing the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop on Main Street in downtown Norwich.
Season’s first snowstorm causes numerous crashes

Strong winds and gusts that could reach 45 to 50 miles per hour are expected to greet local residents as they begin digging out today from the first major snowfall of the winter.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, when 20- to 30 mile-per-hour winds will blow through the region for much of the day, with the strongest gusts in the afternoon.

The high winds could cause downed trees and power lines, and scattered power outages are possible, the weather service said. Temperatures will reach a high of 32 during the day, then fall to a low of 16 at night, when skies will clear and winds will subside.

On Saturday, six to seven inches of snow fell in coastal towns Saturday afternoon and evening, and up to 10 inches accumulated inland. Police and emergency crews responded to numerous fender-benders and stuck vehicles throughout the region as the heavy snow slickened roads and made for hazardous driving conditions.

No serious accidents or injuries were reported.

“There are accidents everywhere,” said the Montville emergency dispatcher at about 6 p.m., echoing the remarks of several of his counterparts in neighboring towns. Police and emergency crews responded to cars spinning out of control and veering off roadways, which AAA’s Roadside Rescue Team received 450 calls for assistance in Connecticut’s five eastern counties between 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Average speeds on I-95 were down to 30 miles per hour for much of the night.

“It’s gotten significantly worse in the last two hours,” said Aaron Kupec, spokesman for AAA Allied Group, said at about 6:30 p.m. “We’re advising people to stay off the roads, if they have to travel, to go slow and increase their following distance to eight to 10 seconds behind the next car.”

In Norwich, cars piled up at least twice during the storm, with cars slipping and sliding as they tried to mount Laurel Hill. East Main Street was closed for part of the evening after several cars got stuck there.

Route 2A in Montville, the scene of several minor accidents, was closed briefly so state Department of Transportation crews could sand the icy roadway.

The heavy, wet snow weighed on tree branches and utility wires, causing scattered outages in several communities. As of 9:30 p.m., Connecticut Light & Power reported there were 72 customers without power in North Stonington; 56 in Stonington; 13 in Preston; and one each in Montville, Griswold and Old Lyme.

The storm tapered off around 10 p.m., but the region remained under a winter storm warning until 6 a.m. today.

j.benson@theday.com

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