Winter's first blast leaves piles of snow but no serious problems

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:45

    SUSSEX COUNTY-The American Automobile Association needed several days to catch up with all the requests to bring dead cars back to life, but other than that the season's first major winter storm created few problems for Sussex County communities. The arrival of the storm late Saturday morning backed up traffic and causes a number of accidents, but local law enforcement agencies said that people headed for home early. And, officials said, when Acting Governor Richard Codey declared a 12-hour state of emergency beginning 8 p.m. Saturday, motorists heeded the ban on any unnecessary travel, allowing road crews to clear the roads by Sunday morning. "There were problems initially, but once the ban went into effect, people were already off the roads," explained Eskil "Skip" Danielson, the director of emergency management for Sussex County. "There were accidents initially, but the accidents occurred in the very beginning, within the first couple of hours of the storm." "The traffic on Route 23 was congested as if it was a weekday for the commuters," reported Franklin's chief of police, Joseph A. Kistle on Monday. "They were bumper-to-bumper, traveling at about 10 to 15 miles per hour, throughout the entire stretch of Route 23" in Franklin. Kistle said that six motor vehicle accidents occurred in his town between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday. He reported seven abandoned vehicles. But other municipalities reported no problems, including Vernon, where a police dispatcher, when asked if there were any accidents or tie-ups, said, "nothing at all." The large amounts of snow that fell countywide were also preceded and accompanied by chilling temperatures, which affected motorists as well. Last Friday night, prior to the storm, temperatures were close to or just below zero. The pulverizing cold sapped the life out of car batteries and froze the locks on cars, said Pam Maiolo, manager of public affairs for AAA's Mid-Atlantic division. "We have experienced a great increase in calls, and we're doing the emergency calls obviously first, and then we're getting to people who are safely in their homes," explained Maiolo, whose territory includes 11 of New Jersey's 21 counties, including Sussex. "We experienced a deluge of calls, and we were unable to respond to a lot of calls between Saturday night and Sunday morning as the result of the state of emergency declared by the governor. So we'll respond as quickly as we can, in order of the emergency," she said on Monday afternoon. Advance notice of the storm brought a crush of shoppers looking to stock their pantries to local supermarkets. With forecasters predicting the storm three days before it arrived, the shopping push was a long one. "When you give them three days of opportunity, they pretty much take advantage of the three days of opportunity," said Scott Hutchins, the manager of Franklin's Shop Rite on Route 23, which closed a half hour prior to the state of emergency taking effect Saturday night before reopening at 8 a.m. as usual on Sunday. "The more advanced warning that they have, the more likely they are to start shopping earlier."