Ready or not, commuters return to cities

State employees are off for Lincoln's birthday, but other commuters are expected to return to the roads in force Tuesday, testing urban centers plagued by scarce parking and roadways still constricted by the weekend's record snow.

Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury labored Monday to clear streets with the state's most in-demand assets: bucket loaders capable of handling snow too deep and, after a day's rain, too heavy for plows.

Capitol

Trucks haul away snow Monday night at the State Capitol.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was overseeing his fifth disaster declaration in two years, said the state Department of Transportation had cleared its highways and was able to release 63 loaders to municipalities.

Danbury was sending a convoy of trucks to help Waterbury, and utilities finished with restoration work released private contractors to the cities and towns.

Help also was on the way from out-of-state Air and Army National Guard units, including a RED HORSE, an acronym for "rapid engineer deployable heavy operational repair squadron engineers."

A RED HORSE squadron from Pennsylvania was expected to arrive Tuesday with the personnel, expertise and equipment to carve an airport runway out of a field. Connecticut officials will happily settle for some clean urban intersections.

The squadron is coming with 50 Air Guardsmen. Another detachment of 25 soldiers, all with heavy-equipment ratings, were flying in Monday night, giving Connecticut Guard units enough staff to keep its loaders running round-the-clock, state officials said.

DOT officials also were negotiating for trucks from other highway departments.

Schools were to begin resuming classes in some municipalities, but Malloy said others would be delayed by unsafe roads and a new danger: Thick, rain-sodden blankets of snow that threatened the flat roofs of many schools. No facility should reopen without an inspection, he said.

"Please, get somebody up on the roof," Malloy said.

There were 16 roof collapses across the state, including the bubble that enclosed a soccer facility near I-84 in Tolland, where the regular players include the grandchildren of Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who lives in Tolland. She toured the flattened the bubble Monday.

Malloy Wyman

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

Malloy, a former mayor of Stamford, repeated a plea for patience with municipal officials and workers, even in places that did not heed his warnings to plow round-the-clock during the storm to keep up with snowfall that reached a record 40 inches in places.

"We know and have seen the municipalities working as hard as they can," Malloy said. "We ask that people understand that this is an extraordinary set of events. The people behind the wheel of those trucks are doing the best they can."

At his evening briefing, the governor deflected questions about communities that interrupted their plowing during the storm.

"There's going to be a lot of time for people second guessing themselves," Malloy said. "What I can tell you with respect to our Department of Transportation, we were plowing throughout the storm."

In Hartford, private contractors hired by the Office of Legislative Management, which runs the Capitol complex and is the governor's landlord, worked Monday night to haul snow from the parking lot, leaving an expanse of bare pavement.

But Capitol Avenue, just off the grounds, remained narrow, with intersections partly obscured by mounds of snow.

"We've made significant progress," Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said in an email Monday night. "Roads are 90 percent passable. We brought in more private contractors and had 19 payloaders, 30 tri-axles, 17 plows, one airport snowblower and 6 Bobcats working today. We're bringing in more tomorrow."

Forecasters, meanwhile, were tracking systems that could produce more snow by the weekend.

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