Winter storm: Montclair declares state of emergency
By LINDA MOSS and ERIN ROLL
Montclair Township has declared a state of emergency effective 4 p.m. Thursday due to the winter storm hitting the region. The municipality also warned residents not to illegally deposit snow in the streets and to clear their sidewalks or risk summonses.
Under the state of emergency nonessential travel and parking on streets is prohibited, the Township Office of Emergency Management said in texts and emails to residents at 12:32 p.m. Thursday.
Cars parked on streets will be towed, the township said. The municipal decks -- Crescent, Bay Street and Fullerton -- and lots were open for overnight parking free of charge. But by 2 p.m. the Crescent deck was filled to capacity, according to the township, with space still available at the Fullerton and Bay Street decks.
Evening shuttle service was also canceled, the township said.
In the wake of the storm, all Montclair public schools and offices will have a two-hour delayed opening Friday, and YMCA morning care will open at 9:30 a.m. The schools were closed Thursday due to the weather, and all after-school and evening activities at school facilities were canceled.
Shortly after 5 p.m. the municipality warned residents to abide by local ordinances regarding snow removal.
"Montclair Community Services crews work around the clock to clear snow from our streets," the township said in emails and texts. "Residents and business owners are reminded not to undo all this hard work by depositing snow from your property or sidewalks into the street. Not only does this hinder township efforts to keep roadways cleared, it is illegal."
Snow-blowing and shoveling snow from walkways, driveways and sidewalks into the streets, plowing driveways into the streets, and cleaning snow off of vehicles into the street are all prohibited by the municipality.
"Please make sure your contractors are aware of the law when they clear snow from your property," the town said. "Please remember to clear sidewalks of ice and snow in front of your property. Ordinance 297-32 requires property owners to clear the full paved width of the sidewalk or a minimum of 48 inches wide in order to ensure the safety of pedestrians using the sidewalks. In addition, a property owner whose sidewalk leads to a crosswalk must remove snow and ice to provide a clear path of access to the crosswalk."
Township code enforcement officials will be writing summons to those who disregard the ordinances, according to the municipality.
Earlier Thursday afternoon the township announced that its community services crews had completed the majority of the day's refuse and recycling routes -- refuse section 1, recycling area A. Crews will finish collection in these areas Saturday.
Early Thursday morning the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the region, including Essex County, until 1 a.m. Friday, with heavy and blowing snow.
Snowfall rates of around one inch an hour were expected from this morning into the early afternoon, according to the NWS. Accumulations of four to six inches are expected.
Winds gusting as high as 45 mph will cause blowing and drifting snow. The service warns residents to plan on difficult travel conditions and to be wary of falling or fallen tree branches.
For those who must travel, the NWS asks that they keep an extra flashlight, food and water in their vehicle in case of an emergency.
As of 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Township Fire Deputy Chief Robert Duncan said that the MFD had not received very many alarm calls. However, he said that the department had been assisting with needed preparations, including helping to clear the parking lots at the fire and police headquarters.
The Township Health Department also asked residents to share information from MESH, Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless, regarding shelter from the cold weather.
MESH provides overnight respite for any homeless person, male or female, when temperatures drop to 32 degrees or below. The respite site is located at Union Baptist Church, 14 Midland Ave. A flashing neon “MESH” sign is in the window.
The cold temperatures have made this winter an especially busy one for MESH, director Gwen Ames said Thursday, adding that at "9:15 (p.m.) at the latest, we're full to capacity."
Ames said, "We're having a very harsh winter, which will make for a good spring, so I'm told. But right now, I'm just trying to get through the winter."
The respite facility opens at 8:30 p.m. and closes for the evening at 11 p.m. Police officers are permitted to present persons in need of shelter any time space is available. A light breakfast is served at 6:45 a.m. Respite service ends at 7:30 a.m.
Contact the MESH hot line at 862-621-9488 for more information.
Check back later for updates.