By Townsman staff
The Andover Townsman
---- — Five days after a blizzard slammed the region last weekend, dropping two feet of snow in town, Andover was still digging out from the mid-winter blast.
Lifting tons of the white stuff with an excavator and dropping it into a heavy duty dump truck behind Memorial Hall Library on Tuesday afternoon, was private contractor Dave Doucette.
“We love it,” said Doucette, foreman with F.P. Reilly and Sons of Andover. “We have two shifts running around the clock.”
People walking around downtown early Tuesday morning — 2 a.m. early — would have seen other construction vehicles piling snow all over Andover’s main roads and hauling it to two designated dumping areas at Rec Park and on High Street. The work cleared the way for downtown shoppers to park along Main Street, a challenging feat in the days following the storm.
While the storm hit quick, finding a place to put the snow wasn’t an issue even though the snowfall was “up there with 2011,” according to Doucette.
“If we come to have another storm of good size, it would get a bit cramped,” he cautioned.
Schools throughout the region were closed Monday, though Special Town Meeting went off without a hitch Monday night. Early into the meeting, one resident pressed for town leadership to postpone the meeting because of road conditions, but the meeting went forward. Students returned to school Tuesday.
It wouldn’t be until Wednesday, however, when sidewalks throughout town were clear, according to acting DPW Director Chris Cronin.
Others felt the weight of the storm differently. With rain on Monday and warm temperatures Tuesday, downtown shop owner Lisa Nardone looked up at her ceiling in Chic Consignment, where water dripped down onto her sales floor in several spots.
“It started happening around 7 a.m.,” she said as the drops collected in 10 plastic containers scattered around the consignment store.
Smiling, she said, “the clothes are safe because Chic Consignment has responsive employees.”
Police log records in the days after the storm tell a tale of icy roads, cars stuck in ditches and even an abandoned car on Gould Road, reported two days after the storm.
A town DPW employee was taken to an area hospital Monday morning after his sanding truck collided head-on with a Northside Carting trash truck, according to Cronin.
There was extensive damage to the front end of the truck, which is worth well over $100,000, Cronin said. The town employee driving the truck is being blamed for the crash, according to police.
PREPARING FOR THE STORM
On Friday morning, many people made a point of getting out of the house, expecting to be snowbound for a while once the blizzard began.
Mimi Queen, of Sweet Mimi’s Chocolates, said she had a good number of shoppers early Friday.
“Compared to a typical day [Friday morning] was like 75 percent more busy. But then, by about 1, once it started to snow -- zero customers,” said Queen, who also was closed Saturday. “For a small business that’s very, very big. We needed those days. Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day are my three high-volume holidays.”
Walking home from his job at Salvatore’s after the Park Street restaurant closed around 3, Dylan Stewart said the restaurant also had been busy that day.
“Actually, people were coming in to get their last meal before they have to be in their house for a while,” said Stewart.
As the governor’s 4 p.m. travel ban approached on Friday there were fewer and fewer people downtown. Around 3:30 p.m. five people were lined up outside CVS/pharmacy hoping it would reopen briefly so they could get their prescriptions. Luis Delerme and Marco Avalos were busy clearing the sidewalks around TD Bank, and Kevin O’Mara stopped at the Gulf gas station to get gas for his snowblower.
Jennifer Bentley of Salem Street was one of the last to get a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts before it closed at 3:30. She was on the way to pick up her three children, ages 17,14, and 11.
“I decided I’d go out and let my kids have fun now, because they’ll have to be home for the rest of the blizzard,” she said.
Out in West Andover, on Route 133, Barron’s Country Store was one of the few places to stay open after 4, serving grateful snowplow drivers and a handful of neighbors.
“Going home Friday night was brutal. It was like a whiteout. You couldn’t see in front of you,” said Chris Sciarrio, night manager.
He returned on Saturday and said he had to climb over 4 foot snow drifts to get to and from his apartment. During his travels he saw cars buried in snow at the Mobil station pumps on Route 133, which he assumed must have been abandoned during the storm. He also saw a plow buried near West Parish Church, perhaps because a driver pulled over and fell asleep.
“We saw a lot of snowplow drivers in here. No one else was on the road because of the ban,” he said. “All morning long nothing but snowplow drivers. They hadn’t eaten all night.”
Police and Public Works reported no major accidents or emergencies during the height of the storm, as people obeyed the driving ban. By Sunday things were better and people were returning to their normal activities.
Dick Soo Hoo of Wolcott Avenue, Andover Chinese Cultural Exchange president, said ACCE had no problem hosting its New Year celebration on Sunday at China Blossom in North Andover.
“Everyone was saying, ‘the driveway is cleared, so I’m here.’ By Sunday, everyone was back to normal,” Soo Hoo said.
His group hosted two events at 4 and 6 p.m. and the first one sold out with some 350 people, while the second one came close to the same.
“Everyone was hungry and wanted to get out by Sunday,” he said. “All of our performers made it...it was a great day.”
It was a similar scene at West Parish Church on Reservation Road as Andover Chamber Music hosted its annual Valentine’s Day concert on Sunday.
Artistic Director Julie Scolnik of Andover said the event was sold out and 280 music lovers attended.
“I think everyone was sick of shoveling,” she said. “They were eager to hear some beautiful music.”
While school was canceled Monday because of fear of freezing rain, by the afternoon people were travelling.
“People were getting stir crazy; they wanted to get out,” said Queen.
Still, getting around was not always easy because of the amount of snow still to be removed.
Downtown, Matt Lennon noted that there were sidewalks that weren’t plowed or shoveled at all, puddles at intersections and crosswalks blocked by walls of snow.
“It was an adventure,” said Matt Lennon of trying to run some errands. “I came from Boston. Storrow Drive was down to one lane. I think it’s that way everywhere.”
Neil Fater, Dustin Luca and Judy Wakefield contributed to this story.