Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:48
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Emergency crews and residents struggled to clear roadways and sidewalks from a storm that rampaged through the Northeast, dumping up to 3 feet of snow and bringing howling winds that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands. Municipal workers from New York to Boston labored through the night Saturday in snow-bound communities, where some motorists had to be rescued after spending hours stuck in wet, heavy snow. Meanwhile, utilities in some hard-hit New England states predicted that Friday's storm could leave some customers in the dark at least until Monday. "We've never seen anything like this," said Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone of Long Island, which got more than 2 1/2 feet of snow. About 345,000 homes and businesses remained without power Sunday morning, down from a total of about 650,000. Some school districts announced they'd be closed on Monday, complicating parents' back to work schedules but giving kids another day for frolicking. At least five deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the snowstorm, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled Saturday morning. That death and the illnesses of several others exposed to carbon monoxide set off a flurry of safety warnings from public officials. Roads across the Northeast were impassable and cars were entombed by snow drifts on Saturday. Some people found the snow packed so high against their homes they couldn't get their doors open. "It's like lifting cement. They say it's 2 feet, but I think it's more like 3 feet," said Michael Levesque, who was shoveling snow in Quincy, Mass., for a landscaping company. In Providence, where the drifts were 5 feet high and telephone lines encrusted with ice and snow drooped under the weight, Jason Harrison labored for nearly three hours to clear his blocked driveway and front walk and still had more work to do. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee cautioned that while the snow had stopped, the danger hadn't passed: "People need to take this storm seriously, even after it's over. If you have any kind of heart condition, be careful with the shoveling." Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more than 80 mph in places, the storm hit hard along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between New York City and Maine. Milford., Conn., got 38 inches of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded 31.9, shattering a 1979 record. Several communities in New York and across New England got more than 2 feet. Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of '78, used by longtime New Englanders as the benchmark by which all other winter storms are measured. By midday Saturday, the National Weather Service reported preliminary snowfall totals of 24.9 inches in Boston, or fifth on the city's all-time list. Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn., got 22 inches, for the No. 2 spot in the record books there. Concord, N.H., got 24 inches of snow, the second-highest amount on record and a few inches short of the reading from the great Blizzard of 1888. In New York, where Central Park recorded 11 inches, not even enough to make the Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city "dodged a bullet" and its streets were "in great shape." The three major airports - LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. - were up and running by late morning after shutting down the evening before. Most of the power outages were in Massachusetts, where at its peak more than 400,000 homes and businesses were left in the dark. In Rhode Island, a high of around 180,000 customers lost power, or about one-third of the state. Connecticut crews had slowly whittled down the outage total from a high of about 38,000 to about 25,000 Sunday, and power was restored to nearly all of the more than 15,000 in Maine and New Hampshire who were left without lights after the storm hit. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island imposed travel bans until 4 p.m. to keep cars off the road and let plows do their work, and the National Guard helped clear highways in Connecticut, where more than 240 auto accidents were reported. The Guardsmen rescued about 90 motorists, including a few who had hypothermia and were taken to hospitals. On Long Island, hundreds of drivers spent a cold and scary night stuck on the highways. Even snowplows got bogged down or were blocked by stuck cars, so emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach motorists, many of whom were still waiting to be rescued hours after the snow had stopped. Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. on Friday and headed for home in Middle Island, N.Y., but got stuck six or seven times on the Long Island Expressway and other roads. "There was a bunch of us Long Islanders. We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing," he said. He finally gave up and settled in for the night in his car just two miles from his destination. At 8 a.m., when it was light out, he walked home. "I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit," he said. "It was very icy under my car. That's why my car is still there." Around the New York metropolitan area, many victims of Superstorm Sandy were mercifully spared another round of flooding, property damage and power failures. "I was very lucky and I never even lost power," said Susan Kelly of Bayville. "We were dry as anything. My new roof was fantastic. Other than digging out, this storm was a nice storm." As for the shoveling, "I got two hours of exercise." At New York's Fashion Week, women tottered on 4-inch heels through the snow to get to the tents to see designers' newest collections. Across much of New England, streets were empty of cars and dotted instead with children who had never seen so much snow and were jumping into snow banks and making forts. Snow was waist-high in the streets of Boston. Plows made some thoroughfares passable but piled even more snow on cars parked on the city's narrow streets. Boston's Logan Airport resumed operations late Saturday night. Life went on as usual for some. In Portland, Karen Willis Beal got her dream wedding on Saturday - complete with a snowstorm just like the one that hit before her parents married in December 1970. "I have always wanted a snowstorm for my wedding, and my wish has come true to the max," she said. In Massachusetts, the National Guard and Worcester emergency workers teamed up to deliver a baby at the height of the storm at the family's home. Everyone was fine. Some spots in Massachusetts had to be evacuated because of coastal flooding, including Salisbury Beach, where around 40 people were ordered out. Among them were Ed and Nancy Bemis, who heard waves crashing and rolling underneath their home, which sits on stilts. At one point, Ed Bemis went outside to take pictures, and a wave came up, blew out their door and knocked down his wife. "The objects were flying everywhere. If you went in there, it looks like ... two big guys got in a big, big fight. It tore the doors right off their hinges. It's a mess," he said.
Published in National News
Saturday, 09 February 2013 10:24
BOSTON (AP) -- A behemoth storm packing hurricane-force wind gusts and blizzard conditions swept through the Northeast overnight, where more than 650,000 homes and businesses in the densely populated region lost power, roads were impassable and New Englanders awoke Saturday to more than 2 feet of snow. More than 38 inches of snow fell in Milford in central Connecticut, and an 82-mph wind gust was recorded in nearby Westport. Areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire notched at least 2 feet - with more falling. Airlines scratched more than 5,300 flights through Saturday, and the three major airports serving New York City as well as Boston's Logan Airport closed. Flooding was also a concern along the coast. The possibility led to the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Quincy, Mass., south of Boston, and of 20 to 30 people in oceanfront homes in Salisbury in northeastern Massachusetts, authorities in those towns said. But it did not appear to create major problems in New York and New Jersey, states hit hardest during last October's Superstorm Sandy. Snow piled up so high in some places Saturday that people couldn't open their doors to get outside. Streets were mostly deserted throughout New England save for plow crews and a few hardy souls walking dogs or venturing out to take pictures. In Boston's Financial District, the only sound was an army of snowblowers clearing sidewalks. Streets in many places were inaccessible. Even the U.S. Postal Service closed post offices and suspended mail delivery Saturday in New England. Some of the worst of the storm appeared to hit Connecticut, where all roads were ordered closed Saturday. The snow made travel nearly impossible even for emergency responders who found themselves stuck on highways all night. In the shoreline community of Fairfield, police and firefighters could not come in to work, so the overnight shift was staying on duty, said First Selectman Michael Tetreau. "It's a real challenge out there," Tetreau said. "The roads are not passable at this point. We are asking everyone to stay home and stay safe." Nearly 22 inches of snow fell in Boston and up to 3 feet was expected, the National Weather Service said, threatening the city's 2003 record of 27.6 inches. In the heavily Catholic city, the archdiocese urged parishioners to be prudent and reminded them that, under church law, the requirement to attend Sunday Mass "does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation." Gov. Deval Patrick enacted a statewide driving ban for the first time since the Blizzard of `78, a ferocious storm that dropped 27 inches of snow, packed hurricane-force winds and claimed dozens of lives. "This is crazy. I mean it's just nuts," said Eileen O'Brien, 56, of blacked-out Sagamore Beach, Mass., clearing heavy snow from her deck for fear it might collapse. As the pirate flag outside her door snapped and popped in gale-force winds Saturday, she pointed to the snowman she'd built 16 hours earlier, when her mood and the snow were both lighter - and the Upper Cape village still had power. "My thermostat keeps dropping. Right now it's 54 inside, and I don't have any wood," said O'Brien, a respiratory care practitioner. "There's nothing I can do to keep warm except maybe start the grill and make some coffee." In downtown Topsfield, north of Boston, most stores were dark and blocked off by snowdrifts, but the convenience store where Kim Mitchell works was lit and shoveled out and had been open since 5 a.m. Mitchell, 48, lives in neighboring Ipswich but stayed overnight with a friend who lives within walking distance of the store so she could get to work. One customer, Jack Donaher, general manager of a nearby farm and garden store, was buying coffee and pastries and headed back to keep clearing out the store lot for possible reopening Sunday. The weather and statewide driving ban had limited his workforce. "One showed up," he said. "There was supposed to be four." The wind-whipped snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25 million people have to go back to work. But halfway through what had been a mild winter across the Northeast, it also could mean a weekend cooped up indoors. Road conditions were awful in New Hampshire, said Jim Pierce, who works for the state transportation department and plows driveways in Concord and surrounding towns as a side business. He started plowing about 6:30 a.m. "It takes quite a bit to push this back," he said. "It's fluffy, but there's a lot of it." About 650,000 customers in the Northeast lost power during the height of the snowstorm, most of them in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass., lost electricity and shut down Friday night during the storm. Authorities say there's no threat to public safety. At least six deaths were blamed on the storm, including three in Canada. In southern Ontario, an 80-year-old woman collapsed while shoveling her driveway and two men were killed in car crashes. One pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and killed Friday night in Prospect, Conn., and a 23-year-old New York man plowing his driveway with a farm tractor went off the edge of the road and was killed, police in those states said. Rhode Island's governor ordered residents to stay off the roads. Typically busy streets in Providence were empty Saturday as the wind blew snow into drifts that buried cars and parking lots. No injuries or significant accidents were reported on state highways, authorities said, though many cars will have to be dug out of snow drifts. Several state police cars were also stuck in deep snow in Maine, where stranded drivers were warned to expect long waits for tow trucks or other assistance. Early snowfall was blamed for a 19-car pileup Friday in Cumberland, Maine, that caused minor injuries. In New York, hundreds of cars got stuck on the Long Island Expressway on Friday, and dozens remained disabled early Saturday as police worked to free them. A little more than 11 inches fell in New York City, but the city was "in great shape" Saturday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, and he said streets would be cleared by the end of the day. Still, native New Yorker Efrain Burgos took no chances. "I took the subway for the first time in 10 years," he said. For Joe DeMartino, of Fairfield, Conn., being overprepared for the weather was impossible: His wife was expecting their first baby Sunday. He stocked up on gas and food, got firewood ready and was installing a baby seat in the car. The couple also packed for the hospital. "They say that things should clear up by Sunday. We're hoping that they're right," he said. Said his wife, Michelle: "It adds an element of excitement."
Published in National News