Keeping Stratford safe on a night fit for no man

Now that snow is no longer driving sideways on near-hurricane force winds, Stratford residents can exhale and take stock of what the Blizzard of 2013 did — and didn’t — do to our community.

It was fitting that the Weather Channel named this historic blizzard Nemo, a Latin word that means “no one” or “no man.” By late Friday, Feb. 8, no one was venturing outdoors save for our dedicated public works employees, who were pretreating and plowing the roadways, and our emergency responders and public safety personnel. Within hours, the sheer volume and weight of the accumulated snow had immobilized our town and, indeed, much of the Northeast.

It seemed like nothing, and no one, was moving at all.

In Stratford, Nemo dumped more than 30 inches of snow on us. Highways were shut down. Local roads were impassable. Businesses closed. Rail service stopped. Mail delivery was suspended. United Illuminating braced for a worst-case scenario with up to 32,000 customers losing electrical power.

Thankfully, the power outages were few as Nemo raged on. But this blizzard saw no shortage of heartening and creative acts of generosity as neighbors, strangers and public servants helped each other.

For example, when a pregnant resident during the height of the storm couldn’t be reached by vehicle, Stratford firefighters and emergency medical technicians carefully placed her into the bucket of a pay loader to safely transport her over the snow to an awaiting ambulance.

During Nemo, we stationed a plow and driver at each firehouse and at Emergency Medical Services headquarters to keep each building egress clear for responding vehicles and to escort emergency responders through the storm.

One of those Public Works plow drivers was Marco Lopez, who was assigned to EMS and Fire Headquarters on Main Street during the height of the storm. Lopez was dispatched with EMS and firefighters to assist another pregnant woman who, while trying to reach Bridgeport Hospital, became snowbound in an SUV.

Lopez said that hand shoveling, plow maneuvering, and liberal sanding helped free the SUV. On-scene commanders then instructed Lopez, in his plow, to lead the way for EMS and fire personnel to accompany the patient to Bridgeport Hospital. With a small caravan of strobe lights behind him in the raging storm, Lopez guided his plow along Honeyspot Road to Connecticut Avenue, and proceeded to deliver the patient safely to Bridgeport Hospital.

As the snow subsided, residents began sharing their own heartening stories. In last week’s Stratford Star, Robert F. Walsh recounted the actions he and his wife took to aid a freezing woman and her son. They were joined in this rescue by firefighters Brian Johnson and John Roberts, who were digging out their own response vehicle on West Broad Street during the blizzard when they heard and responded to the cries for help.

And the good deeds are still under way all around us. Our Police Department Explorers volunteered to take their shovels to our neighborhoods to help residents dig out their sidewalks and cars. All around town, residents have pitched in to help firefighters clear the town’s 1,372 fire hydrants.

So while it seemed that no one moved during Nemo, I know that wasn’t really the case. There were firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, public works employees, and other essential workers doing their jobs bravely the entire time. And there also was an entire community in motion — Stratford neighbors checking on each other, helping one another dig out, calling for assistance on behalf of others. Our community spirit helped us get through a challenging time, and it has helped our town return to normalcy.

I thank each and every one of you for your hard work and patience during this exceptional storm.


John A. Harkins is mayor of Stratford.

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