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Northeast Digs Out From Blizzard After Bracing for Worst

By Annie Linskey, Jim Polson and Brian K. Sullivan
February 10, 2013 11:37 AM EST 8 Comments
New England Digging Out From Blizzard After Bracing for Worst
New England Digging Out From Blizzard After Bracing for Worst

Russell Mason pointed to the hole in the side of his yellow seafront home near the entrance to Boston Harbor. That’s where the cellar door was, until the hurricane- force wind gusts of a blizzard slapped it away.

“We get the worst of it,” said Mason, 58, whose neighbor’s furniture bobbed in a pond across the street. “We get the destruction every time.”

The blizzard that lashed the U.S. Northeast beginning Feb. 8 dumped record amounts of snow in parts of New England, killing at least five people and leaving more than half a million homes and businesses without power. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Connecticut, freeing federal aid for cleanup. As much as 40 inches (102 centimeters) of snow fell in Hamden and 36 inches were reported on state rail lines.

Residents of the region continued digging out and patching up today. In Boston, a traffic ban until late yesterday let snowplows clear streets and pedestrians to take over normally busy thoroughfares. By nightfall, the cars parked in front of Victorian brownstones on Marlborough Street looked like lines of igloos.

In Connecticut, Governor Dan Malloy warned that not all Metro-North Railroad lines may be cleared for tomorrow’s commute.

Tough Commute

“If there’s a reason you need to be in New York City on Monday, you might want to move yourself there sooner by car,” he said yesterday at a news briefing.

Boston got 24.9 inches, the fifth-heaviest snowfall on record, according to the National Weather Service. The most was 27.6 inches in February, 2003. By mid-morning today, about 240,000 Massachusetts utility customers were still without power, down from more than 400,000 yesterday. At its height, the storm knocked out service to more than 650,000 from New York to Maine, utilities said. The figure stood at 354,000 today.

“Considering the severity of the storm, we’ve come through this pretty well,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said today in an interview broadcast by CBS. Patrick said he is focused on recovery efforts, including getting Boston’s transit system ready for tomorrow’s commute. The system has been shut down since Feb. 8, when the storm hit.

Sandy Comparison

The storm had officials and businesses preparing for the worst-case scenario, coming three months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast with 85-mile-an-hour winds and flooding that killed more than 125 people in 10 states.

The Oct. 29 hurricane ravaged shore communities from New Jersey’s Atlantic City to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Congress completed a $60.2 billion disaster-aid package last month to pay for damages in the storm’s wake.

Sandy and a subsequent snowstorm a week later knocked out power to 8.66 million homes and businesses in 21 states, some for more than a week, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

The blizzard, in contrast, cut power to about 652,000 homes and businesses, most of them in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In Massachusetts, Patrick ended a ban on normal traffic at 4 p.m. yesterday. Malloy lifted a similar Connecticut ban at that time. Patrick said the ban helped road crews clear streets and highways in much of the state by late yesterday.

Seaside Damage

Hull resident Mason, whose home was damaged, said the wind rattled his windows with such intensity that he “thought there was a poltergeist” at work.

At the nearby Hull police station, Lieutenant Dale Shea warmed up yesterday afternoon after a 12-hour shift. Clearing snow from the roads during the storm was like “shoveling against the tide,” he said.

“With the wind and the snow, you made a pass and then it was like you were never there,” Shea said.

The hilly seaside town was coated in white snow and ice, and from a distance the homes looked like barnacles clinging to a rock.

The Associated Press reported at least five storm-related U.S. deaths, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm.

In Connecticut, a woman clearing snow was killed by a hit- and-run motorist, Malloy said at a news briefing. He said the number of stranded cars and trucks on roads in the state was beyond counting.

Abandoned Cars

“One of the biggest problems we are facing is stalled automobiles,” Malloy said yesterday. “We are trying to dig them out and tow them away.”

“I still want to urge residents to stay off the roads if at all possible,” the governor said in a statement. “The longer we can keep traffic out of town centers and off of our highways, the more effective our recovery effort will be.”

In New York’s Long Island, more than 150 cars and trucks were snowbound on roads and highways during the storm. Some drivers stayed put all night while others were rescued.

Wind gusts roared from parts of Long Island to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with an 83 mile (133 kilometer) an hour burst reported on Cuttyhunk Island at the height of the blizzard.

In New York City, about 11 inches of snow fell in Central Park and La Guardia Airport got 12 inches, according to AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

“It looks like we’ve dodged a bullet,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday at a news briefing. “We think we’re in great shape. We were lucky.”

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

Portland Record

Portland, Maine, got 31.9 inches, topping the old record of 27.1 inches set in 1979, said John Cannon, a weather service meteorologist in Gray, Maine.

Long Island had lower winds than forecast, said John Bruckner, president for power provider National Grid Plc.

Entergy Corp.’s Pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth, Massachusetts, shut down safely during the storm when it lost its outside power supply, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. It remained shut today.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Long Island was the hardest-hit area of the state, with Nassau County receiving between 12 and 24 inches of snow and Suffolk County more than 30 inches in some areas.

Suffolk Damage

“Suffolk has sustained significant damage and significant hardship as a result of the storm,” Cuomo said. He said today that more than a third of the state’s road-clearing equipment and crews have been sent to Suffolk County to help open streets and highways before tomorrow’s commute.

The governor said he had directed some of the state’s utility crews to Connecticut and Massachusetts to help restore services in those states.

The storm arrived days after the 35th anniversary of the “Blizzard of ’78,” which buried Boston in a then-record 27.1 inches of snow and killed 99 people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Two February blizzards, in 2003 and 2011, surpassed that epic storm’s snowfall, both by less than an inch.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net; Annie Linskey in Boston at alinskey@bloomberg.net; Jim Polson in New York at jpolson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net; Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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