A ‘ridiculous,’ ‘exceptional’ storm: Upper Valley blanketed in feet of snow

  • Debra Whippie, of Windsor, Vt., cleans her car off with a man who did not want to be identified in Windsor, along Main Street in Windsor on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • With 28 inches of snow on the ground and more still falling, Ron Bailey, of Plainfield, N.H., shovels his driveway at his home on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Bailey said he prefers to shovel the driveway himself rather than having it plowed. He likes the snow and spends the winter snowshoeing and cross country skiing. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Coco Fox shovels a path from her driveway to her garbage can in White River Junction, Vt., Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. "With the pandemic, I was like, 'what's the one thing that can get me excited to go in the snow?'" said Fox. "For me, that was a fully waterproof snowsuit that looks like I'm going into outer space." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Matt Johnson was just leaving work at Alliance Mechanical in West Lebanon, N.H., when he noticed cars getting stuck in the snow on nearby roads Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Johnson and another passer-by, Patrick Cassell, of Fairlee, not pictured, shoveled and pushed at least three vehicles until they were back to clearly plowed streets. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Erin English cleans snow off her car outside her Royalton, Vt., home after the first big snowfall of the year Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. English said she has been working from home since March, but her husband drove to work in the storm. "If he gets stuck, I should probably get the car ready to go," she said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2020 1:47:44 PM
Modified: 12/17/2020 9:25:11 PM

LEBANON — Decked out in snow pants, boots and snow gaiters, Hanover couple Lia Parker-Belfer and Alex Mitko approached Thursday’s near-record snowfall like any enthusiastic New Englanders would: with a nearly three-hour trek through massive amounts of snow.

“It’s been really fun exploring Hanover. It’s a magical wonderland,” said 26-year-old Parker-Belfer, a Tuck School of Business student, brushing thick flakes from her hair. “We’ve been just flopping in the mounds (of snow).”

They were among the scores of people who took to the streets of Hanover and other nearby towns after a massive snowfall overnight into Thursday morning blanketed the Upper Valley in fluffy snow — in some cases more than 3 feet of it, marking a storm that seasoned meteorologists called “ridiculous” and “exceptional.”

“We’re approaching record snowfalls,” said meteorologist Andy Pohl of the National Weather Service’s station in Gray, Maine, which covers New Hampshire.

Snowfall in several areas was approaching past records of 40-plus inches: Sullivan County was expected to get around 38 inches of snow by the time the storm passed Thursday afternoon. During the snowiest part of the storm Thursday morning, the county saw 24 inches in just four hours, Pohl said.

“This is not typical. Six-inch-per-hour rates? That’s ridiculous,” he said.

Some parts of Central and Southern Vermont saw similar rates Thursday morning, as 30-35 inches of snow was dumped around Windsor County, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Haynes, based in Burlington.

“There’s been exceptional snowfall rates this morning,” Haynes said, adding that the large accumulation was due in part to the “fluffy” nature of the snow.

He said the storm hadn’t broken the state record, which is 42 inches in 24 hours in Vermont, but that it’s in the “upper echelon” of major snowfalls.

The northern parts of the Twin States also saw snow, but less accumulation than their southern counterparts.

Parts of Grafton County, like Piermont, saw up to 19 inches of snow, while parts of Orange County in Vermont, like Vershire, were expected to see around 7 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The snowfall contributed to several crashes around the Upper Valley. New Hampshire State Police responded to a Department of Transportation truck that rolled over on Interstate 89 around 8:50 a.m. in Grantham, according to state troopers. Officials did not say whether the crash had caused injuries.

In Lyme, the slippery conditions caused one driver to slide through a stop sign at the intersection of North Thetford and River Road around 5:30 a.m., according to Lyme Police Sgt. Anthony Casale, who said there was a foot of snow on the road at the time of the crash.

The car went over an embankment and rolled over, hitting a tree, which stopped the vehicle from crashing into the Connecticut River just 10 feet away, Casale said. No one was injured in the crash.

Around noon, a Vermont State Police officer was involved in one crash while investigating another on Interstate 89 in Hartford, according to a news release from the agency. The trooper was sitting in his cruiser by the side of the road when a pickup truck driven by a Sharon man ran into the cruiser, causing damage but no injuries. The driver of the truck said he hit “white out” conditions on the interstate and tried to brake but lost control of his truck, the release said.

Vermont State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said the agency had responded to at least 80 crashes and reports of cars sliding off the road — all but six in the southern part of the state — but said no serious injuries had been reported by Thursday afternoon.

“For central and especially southern Vermont, today was an unusually busy day as far as vehicle crashes go, and certainly an unusually snowy one,” Silverman said in an email.

That held true for local departments, too. In Hanover and Lebanon, police responded to plenty of calls about people sliding off the road or getting stuck in a snow bank, though very few crashes, according to officials. Deputy Lebanon Police Chief Phillip Roberts said police were responding to people stuck in intersections around the city, and added that the snowfall Thursday was unlike any he’s experienced in the area.

“I’ve never seen anything over 3 feet. This is new,” Roberts said.

The snow affected some local businesses, too. In Hanover, Main Street Kitchens sported a cheery front-door sign reading “snow day!” Next to it, several other businesses had their lights off.

Even Advance Transit shut down for the day, in an effort to give snowplows a chance to clear the roads, according to the bus service’s website.

Lebanon resident Sarah Jackson, who couldn’t get her car out of the driveway, was using pair of snowshoes and ski poles to make her way to the bus Thursday, which she later found out was not running.

She moved to Lebanon last year from Alabama and said the storm was beyond compare to anything she experienced last winter.

“I just got (the snowshoes) last year for fun, but today I need them for real life,” said Jackson, a second-year anesthesiology resident at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Despite the challenges, many people around the Upper Valley were delighted to wake up to the drifts of snow, with Parker-Belfer calling the snowfall a “forced break to take perspective.”

Hanover resident Rowan Carroll, 50, shared her joy. Fresh from delivering cookies to her friends in downtown Hanover, Carroll said she was glad she could stay home and bake during her snow day.

“It’s about time,” Carroll said, grinning under her mask and sharing photos of a wind chime on her front porch. She said the sight had made her laugh that morning: a little brown owl chime with a cone of pure white snow perched on its head like a hat.

A few miles south, The Lebanon Green was mostly quiet around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon with shops closed and sidewalk snow trucks at work. But a few people came out of their homes to take advantage of the wintry weather.

Mike Peterson of Lebanon, who was out walking his 5-month-old dog, Suzi, on Thursday, said he wanted to snap a picture of the dog in front of town hall because it was her first snow. The 70-year-old retiree added that he thought the storm was similar to one that hits in the middle of a bad winter.

“This is actually the best thing we could have for the pandemic. Most years we’re all wondering, ‘Geez, are we going to have a white Christmas?’ Well, I think we’re going to have a white Christmas,” Peterson said with a laugh.

Valley News staff writer Pete Nakos contributed to this report. Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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