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CT prepares for its first major snow storm in two years

A bicyclist pedals on a street during a snowstorm Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in Hartford, Conn.
Dave Collins
A bicyclist pedals on a street during a snowstorm Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in Hartford, Conn.

The first significant snowfall in two years is expected to hit Connecticut this weekend. The National Weather Service predicts up to a foot of snow in some parts of the state — but officials say they’re prepared.

Officials said the state has more than 600 plows and 900 drivers ready to clear the roads once the snow starts, and extra utility crews are prepared to fix any power outages.

But Department of Transportation Commissioner Garrett Eucalito added that they don't have as many drivers as usual. The DOT is down around 115 drivers and a quarter of contractors.

He said that means it may take a bit longer to clear the roads, and residents should plan to be patient.

“My recommendation is for folks not to be on the roads, to stay home,” Eucalitto said. “Give us our space to do our work. And most importantly, slow down and don't crowd the plow.”

If you have to travel, State Police Colonel Daniel Loughman offered some tips to stay safe.

“Contact a family member or any friends and let them know what your travel plans are prior to travelling, and bring a fully charged cell phone with you,” Loughman said. “Ensure your vehicle’s windshield wipers are operational, that they're working properly, and that you have enough gas or battery charge to make the trip. Before entering your vehicle ensure that it's clear of any snow or ice and that you have sufficient tire tread.”

Precautions must also be taken while driving.

“While driving, keep your headlights illuminated so you're visible to other drivers, and utilize your turn signals when appropriate,” Loughman said. “Reduce speed on snow-covered roadways, they're going to be slick. In order to maintain control, keep those speeds slow.”

Governor Ned Lamont (D) said he had “mixed feelings” about the snow — it can be dangerous, but it can also be fun.

“I remember snow days as a kid,” Lamont said. “You're not going to be missing a day of school, but you maybe have a little bit of sledding. You can go to Mount Southington, you can go to Mohawk, you can go to Powder Ridge. They’ll be opening up, but wait until we get the roads plowed.”

Warming centers and shelters across the state are open to take in residents who need to get out of the cold.

In New Haven, Mayor Justin Elicker said they have 130 spaces in their warming centers and are prepared to open more if necessary.

“People that don't have a home are a high priority for us,” Elicker said. “We have a lot of nonprofit partners that are part of our outreach team that will go and directly engage with people that may be sleeping on the street or encampments, and make sure that they're knowledgeable about the warming centers.”

The hotel that the city purchased and is turning into another shelter also took in new residents ahead of the storm: they had seven occupants in late December, and now have 12.

The converted hotel is not taking walk-ins. People looking to be placed in a shelter must call 211. The warming centers accept walk-ins.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.