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Boston braces for winter's wrath

The city has 44,000 tons of salt stocked for snow storms and more than 140 pieces of snow removal equipment.
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Winter is coming and Boston is hedging its bets— the city anticipates spending more money on snow removal than last winter, but less than the punishing winter of 2014-15.

The city’s snow removal budget this year is $22.5 million, Mayor Marty Walsh said on Thursday while detailing the city’s efforts to prepare for the winter season.

During the winter of 2015 — which dropped a total of 108.6 inches, or just over 9 feet, a record-breaking amount for Boston — the city spent $38.5 million. Last winter, the city was under its snow budget, having spent $14.6 million out of the allotted amount.

“The winter of 2015 is behind us, but not a distant memory,” Walsh told reporters. “Last year, when I saw the first snowfall, I cringed because I thought about that year. This year, I think I’ll feel the same way.”

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Forecasters at The Farmers' Almanac say the Boston area will see above-normal temperatures this year and that snowfall will be slightly above normal north of the city, below normal in the central region and nearly normal south of the city. The snowiest period will occur in mid-January to mid-Feburary, the forcasters said.

Boston is as ready as it can be, Walsh asserted. The city has 44,000 tons of salt at the ready, a 4,000-ton increase from last year.

More than 140 pieces of public works equipmentareready to salt and plow the roads and the city is able to add another 700 plowsto that fleetthrough private contractors. Throughout the city, there's 2,000 lane miles of roadway to plow and salt.

In June of 2015, Boston purchased two new truck-mounted snow blowers, which are able to plow 2,750 tons of snow per hour. Boston has yet to use these new toys, but loaned them to Baltimoreto help that city dig out of a big snowfall.

“I’m looking forward to never using them here,” Walsh said.

New this year is a brine truck, which Chief of Streets Chris Osgood said applies a layer of saline solution to the roads ahead of a storm, so that the snow melts instead of freezing into ice on the streets. Osgood said the city will be trying out this equipment on some roads and the new protected bike lanes in the city.

If you’re already planning what household item to use as your space saver this year, be warned: Jerome Smith, the city’s chief of civic engagement, emphasized that space savers are only allowed when the city has officially declared a snow emergency and only for a 48-hour period after.

“If it’s just a dusting, we do not put space savers out,” he said.

But if you live in the South End, you’re out of luck — residents there decided to ban the use of space savers this winter.

Osgood reminded drivers not to park too close to street corners to allow plows enough space and to avoid parking on the main arteries during snow emergencies because violators will be ticketed and towed.

To get notifications and real-time updates about parking bans, residents can sign up for phone calls, texts or emails from the city through its website at boston.gov/snow or by calling 311. More than 150 volunteers will be attending to the 311 calls this winter.

The city updated the alert system this year to offer four languages: English, Spanish, French and Chinese. Residents can also call 311, or download the app, for help finding a garage for their car, to learn about school closures and to report a homeless or other resident in distress either during a storm or extreme cold.

If you do rely on your car, Osgood advised people “use public transit if possible instead of choosing to drive during a snowstorm.”

The MBTA announced previously that its Red and Orange line cars would be equipped with 40 train plows per line, up from 20.

Additional languages have been added to the school closure robocalls as well, Walsh said. Last year, the city announced only three snow days — one for which there was barely any snow.

“I’m always going to err on the side of safety and caution with kids,” Walsh said.

For parents who are worried about what to do with their kids during a snow day, the city will openresource centers for children 7 and older where they can stay while their parents are at work. As always, call 311 if you need more information.

Warming centers will also open during emergencies if there are power outages. The city also has aSeniors Save Program, launched after the 2015 winter, to help seniors replace failing or inefficient heating systems before the winter weather begins.

Winter is especially hard on seniors who are often isolated and unable to shovel their walkways, as well as on the city’s homeless population. This year, a new shelter at South Hampton Street will help assist400 guests.

The city has long been working to place homeless residents and veterans into housing, so the number of those in need going into this winter is lower than it has been in the past. The shelter systems normally have a capacity to shelter 1,480 people, but Sheila Dillon, chief of housing, said that need increases in the winter.

Pine Street Inn will operate its outreach vans and the city encourages all residents to call 911 if someone is outside and in distress, or 311 if they are generally concerned about an individual and would like an official to check on them.

Smith also emphasized checking on any neighbor during the winter especially if they are elderly or disabled.

“Go out, meetyour neighbors and help out where you can,” he said.

 
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