Local News, News, Top Video, Weather, Winter Weather

Snow day costs the state extra in overtime pay

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Some state employees were paid overtime to go to work during what turned out to be a mostly dry workday on Wednesday, after the decision to close state offices triggered overtime pay for essential workers.

Gov. Gina Raimondo elected to close state offices due to predicted snow, telling all non-essential employees to stay home. The decision was made Tuesday night, when forecasts called for a possible messy evening commute. The morning commute was expected to be fine.

According to a Department of Administration memo sent to department heads and payroll officers, non-essential workers on the 8:30 am to 4:30 pm shift stayed home and were compensated like a typical workday. Essential workers who needed to work during the snow day were paid time and a half, and correctional officers were paid double time and a half, per the union contract.

While the costs of Wednesday’s snow day has not yet been calculated, Department of Administration spokesperson Brenna McCabe said the personnel overtime costs from a previous storm-related state office closure totaled $310,000. Some of those costs were part of the RIDOT winter storm budget, which includes labor costs.

The $19.3 million RIDOT budget still had $3 million remaining for the season before Wednesday’s storm, according to a spokesperson.

Raimondo defended the decision to close state offices despite some criticism, after snow did not begin to fall until the afternoon, leaving the roads wet but not snowy during the evening commute.

”Storms are expensive,” Raimondo said in a noontime news conference. “We prepare for it, we err on the side of safety. Storms bring with them expenses: salt, plows, trucks, etc. We’re prepared for it and we knew that when we made that decision.”

The state relies on forecasts from the National Weather Service and the State Meteorologist when deciding whether to close state offices.

”We make decisions based on the information we have at the moment we make the decision,” EMA Director Peter Gaynor said in an interview Wednesday. “These things can go either way in a minute, so in this case I think we erred on the side of public safety, which we always do. Sometimes it turns out exactly how you think it is, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that’s just weather in New England.”

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Local News, News, Providence, Top Video, Weather, Winter Weather

City officials urge drivers to obey parking bans

PINPOINT CLOSING NETWORK: Latest closings, delays and parking bans »

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While the condition of the roads Sunday night widely depended on location, many cities and towns had one thing in common – parking bans.

Providence is one of dozens of communities that put parking restrictions in effect so crews could plow the roads curb to curb. The ban went into effect at 12:01 a.m. and ends at 6 a.m.

“We need people to pay attention to that parking ban and not park on the street…There will be police and tow trucks out that will be removing cars that choose to ignore the parking ban,” said Kevin Kugel, the director of the Providence Emergency Management Agency.

Kugel told Eyewitness News the city will have more than 100 trucks plowing overnight. He thinks roads will be in good shape for the morning, but he said he is concerned about wind Monday.

“There’s a lot of ice and snow built up on power lines and tree limbs. When the wind comes in that fast, when the wind comes in that hard, it can really cause tree limbs and power lines to come down. So, people need to pay attention,” Kugel said.

Neal O’Brien – an Irishman-turned-New Englander – said he’s a fan of the snow.

“We do not get snow like this in Ireland. Not at all. Two or three inches and the country would come to a standstill,” O’Brien said.

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Local News, News, Top Video, Weather, Winter Weather

RIEMA director: State’s response to blizzard was ‘successful’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One day after a blizzard dumped about a foot of snow on Rhode Island, the director of the state’s Emergency Management Agency said he was pleased by the response to the storm.

“We closed state government, we begged and pleaded throughout the day for people to stay off the roads,” Pete Gaynor said in an interview with Eyewitness News on Friday. “We were pleasantly surprised at the low amount of accidents and calls for service yesterday. I credit Rhode Islanders for listening to our message.”

Rhode Island State Police said there were 16 car crashes between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, plus 156 drivers asked for assistance after sliding off the road. No serious injuries were reported.

Gaynor said he didn’t hear any reports of emergency services not being able to reach their destinations.

The biggest problem on the roads appeared to be when dozens of drivers were stuck for hours on I-95 in Hopkinton. The highway was closed after tractor-trailers couldn’t make it up a slight incline, blocking the way.

Gaynor and Gov. Gina Raimondo repeatedly implored drivers not to go on the slippery roads, but did not declare a state of emergency.

“Although we considered it, it wasn’t really appropriate,” Gaynor said. “The core thing about a state of emergency is…you’re saying to the president that you have exceeded all your state resources. And that was not the case yesterday.”

Gaynor said lessons are always learned each storm, and his team met Friday to debrief.

“Could we have been clearer about the message that we wanted to get out there?” he asked. “When we closed government it was late at night, could we have done it earlier?”  A notification about the closure of state offices was sent at 11:38 p.m Wednesday., after the traditional 11 p.m. newscasts were over.

Gaynor said the team is now getting ready for storms that are in the forecast next week.

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Local News, Massachusetts, News, SE Mass, Top Video, Weather, Winter Weather

February Nor’easter: Blizzard conditions confirmed in New Bedford

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StormBeat: Blizzard-like conditions pummel Southern New England »

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI/AP) – New Bedford has announced that public schools will be closed again on Friday.

Gov. Charlie Baker urged people to stay off Massachusetts roads as the biggest snowstorm of the winter moves across the state throughout the day.

The National Weather Service confirmed that it’s officially a blizzard that hit New Bedford. Eyewitness News Meteorologist T.J. Del Santo said New Bedford was among several communities that had met blizzard criteria.

Feb. 9 Nor'easter collage
Photos: February Nor’easter

Eyewitness News Reporter Steph Machado reported that the wind was so strong at times, it practically knocked her over.

Massachusetts activated its emergency management bunker in Framingham to coordinate the response to the storm that’s expected to drop a foot or more of snow in some areas. The National Weather Service even issues a blizzard warning for coastal areas south of Boston.

The Republican said Thursday roads need to be clear so plows and sanders can do their work and emergency vehicles can make their way around.

Hundreds of departures from Logan Airport were canceled and airport officials were urging travelers to check with their airline. The state’s utilities were preparing for power outages and the state’s court system closed for the day.

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Local News, News, Top Video, Weather, West Bay

Warwick mayor: It would be impossible to inspect every tree

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — One day after a tree likely damaged in a storm earlier this month crashed down on cars waiting at a stoplight, Eyewitness News asked Mayor Scott Avedisian what can be done to prevent another accident.

“It would be virtually impossible to inspect every tree in the city of Warwick,” the mayor said. The tree that fell Monday was one of many damaged by the Aug. 4 macroburst that took down trees, limbs and utility poles.

Two weeks later, a tree on the corner of West Shore Road and Main Avenue fell onto cars, temporarily trapping four people. The Assistant Fire Chief said it was likely the tree was damaged by the storm. Mayor Avedisian pointed out the tree was on private property.

“We’re not going to go onto private property and demand that trees be removed,” he explained.

Still, Avedisian says Public Works crews are making the rounds, checking the neighborhoods with older tree canopies and areas where the public, especially children, congregate.

“We did some work with the Boys & Girls Club…to see if the trees are safe while kids are playing on the field,” Avedisian said.

Homeowners with precarious trees on their property can call the City of Warwick’s arborist, who will provide a free inspection of trees on the property. The arborist can recommend if any dead limbs or “hangers”–the name for broken limbs tangled in a tree, dangling dangerously–need to be cut down.

Mayor Avedisian says if property owners aren’t taking care of storm-damaged trees, Monday’s scary situation could be repeated.

“I assume we’re going to see more of these accidents where trees are going to magically fall,” he said.

The mayor also answered the question many homeowners have asked about fallen trees that cross property lines–for example, if a city-owned tree falls on your house or lawn. Mayor Avedisian says homeowners need to go through their insurance for damage cleanup, after which the insurance company has the option to go after the city for the money.

The City of Warwick has spent more than $250,000 on tree and debris cleanup from the storm, about $50,000 over the Department of Public Works budget. The Mayor says if federal disaster relief funding comes through, that could cover some of the costs. Residents and businesses would also have the option to apply for federal funding.

 

 
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