Changing storm conditions keeps Athol DPW on its toes

  • An Athol Department of Public Works truck plows a road during Monday’s snowstorm. Crews worked throughout the day as weather conditions changed. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL RASKEVITZ

  • Athol’s DPW was hard at work during a snowstorm on Monday that closed the town’s schools and the library. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL RASKEVITZ

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 1/23/2023 3:22:33 PM
Modified: 1/23/2023 3:22:06 PM

ATHOL — As the second winter storm in four days was bearing down on North Quabbin Sunday evening, the town’s Department of Public Works was out in force, repeating steps taken the previous Thursday to prepare for the first round of snow, sleet, and rain.

“We pre-treated the roads with salt at five o’clock last night,” DPW Assistant Director Paul Raskevitz told the Athol Daily News Monday afternoon. “That takes about four hours to get done. Then the guys were back in plowing at about 1 a.m. (Monday morning). So, we had 23 pieces of equipment out on the road, plowing.

“They did the whole town once—then, of course, everything changed over to rain. So then they spent the next couple of hours making sure all the catch basins and everything were clear all around town to avoid any water problems.”

Conditions on the roads then changed again.

“It started to sleet and accumulate in the higher elevations, so they went out to scrape those roads. Then it changed back over to snow and now they’re plowing the whole town again,” Raskevitz said. “But throughout this whole process, because there’s been so much wet snow on the trees, we had four or five large limbs and trees come down last night; so we had to keep breaking crews off from the plowing to go clean up tree debris in the roads.”

Raskevitz said while workers had to respond to the downed trees and branches, none were big enough to require any road closures. The debris, he said, was removed quickly.

Asked if DPW crews had any problems due to the quickly changing conditions — from snow to rain to sleet and back to snow — Raskevitz said, “the snow pushes real hard and it can slide off the plows really fast, so you actually have to plow this stuff considerably slower than you would a fluffy snow. Thankfully, the temperatures have all hovered just above freezing throughout the bulk of this storm, so we haven’t had any severe icing problems; it’s been more of a slush problem. That’s one thing that’s been in our favor.”

Raskevitz said crews working on Monday would be quite busy approaching nightfall. He added that not everyone was paying attention to the town’s winter parking ban.

“We had one problem with South Street this (Monday) morning where there was a car in the way, and there were a couple of other areas,” he said. “But the police department, they were able to jump on those and get some of them moved in a pretty  quick fashion. That helped a lot. Where there are some businesses open today, they do have some cars parked along Main Street. We’ll have go come back and clean all that up afterwards.”

While there were some relatively minor issues regarding DPW vehicles, Raskevitz said none of those were mechanical in nature.

“Generally, these kinds of storms – with all the low-hanging boughs – they’re terrible for windshields and mirrors,” Raskevitz said. “But we’ve been pretty good so far; the crews have been super, super conscious about it, and the areas they haven’t been able to get a big truck into they’ve taken care of with the smaller trucks.”

Cleanup from the storm that moved in Sunday and Monday was to be pretty well completed sometime Tuesday — but that doesn’t mean crews will get much of a chance to relax.

“Forecasters are saying Wednesday, another five to eight inches,” said Raskevitz, “Wednesday night into Thursday morning. So, by the time we get done cleaning this up — removing snow from all the areas where we remove snow — it’ll be just in time to go plow again.”

Power outages reported in several towns

As of Monday at noon, nearly 57% of both New Salem and Wendell National Grid customers, 28% of Wendell and Phillipston customers and 21% of Shutesbury customers lacked power, according to National Grid’s outage map. Eversource, which serves the vast majority of Franklin County west of Erving, reported a handful of scattered outages around the region.

Wendell and New Salem Fire Chief Joe Cuneo said the towns have been responding to trees and branches falling on power lines throughout the day.

“There’s a lot of tree down and they’re still coming down because of the heavy, wet snow and the wind,” Cuneo said, noting there haven’t been any reports of accidents in town. “Beyond that, we’re hoping National Grid gets in here.”

National Grid crews were assigned to each town and were expected to restore power around 4 p.m. on Monday.

In total, the National Weather Service’s Boston/Norton office projected a storm total of five to nine inches with hefty wind gusts, as well as a wintry mix at points.

In total, the National Weather Service’s Boston/Norton office projected a storm total of five to nine inches with hefty wind gusts, as well as a wintry mix at points.

“A wintry mix of precipitation changing to all snow later this morning. Total snow accumulations of five to nine inches. Winds gusting as high as 40 mph,” the winter weather advisory from Monday morning read. Franklin County was underneath a winter storm warning on Sunday evening.

Greg Vine can be reached at

Staff Writer Chris Larabee contributed to this report.

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