A major winter storm dropped heavy snow on New England Monday while whipping it with strong winds and heavy surf. The weather closed or moved online hundreds of schools while making roads treacherous.
Snow emergencies took effect in several communities, including Boston, in anticipation that the storm could dump well over a foot of snow in many areas by Tuesday, create blizzard-like conditions and cause travel problems for the next few days. But on Massachusetts' South Shore, the story was wind and rain, not snow.
The numbers of people without electricity fluctuated as the night went on. As of around midnight, more than 14,200 customers had lost power in Massachusetts.
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Driving conditions around Massachusetts were sloppy in the afternoon and evening -- which Gov. Charlie Baker had warned about in the morning, urging people to stay off the roads if possible in the afternoon, when heavy snow was expected to fall. He said anyone who needed to travel should consider taking public transportation and that those who had to drive give snow plows plenty of space.
"The forecast is predicting a pretty big dump" of snow, Baker said. "This is one people should take seriously, prepare for and pay attention to."
Baker urged all employers to allow employees to work from home if possible, or to leave early if they must work in person.
Coronavirus vaccine providers were asked to reach out to residents set to receive inoculation shots to see if they need to reschedule. Baker said residents who could not make their vaccination appointments due to the storm can call the vaccination site to reschedule.
CIC Health, which runs both the Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park mass vaccination sites, announced changes to their vaccination schedules in anticipation of heavy snow.
Officials also urged people to check in on neighbors who may need help during the storm, especially senior citizens.
While conditions were serious, not everyone was hunkering down.
Some people were spotted kitesurfing in Nahant. One man in Boston was out training for a marathon amid the falling snow.
"This is what I do. I've done a bunch of Boston Marathons and it's just part of life," Christian Habermann said.
On Plum Island, a man walked out of the churning surf, waving to an NBC10 Boston camera while he jogged on the beach. And Wally the Green Monster showed up to say hi to our viewers outside Fenway Park during another live broadcast.
Boston Snow Emergency, School Closures
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced a snow emergency for the city, effective noon Monday, along with a parking ban that took effect at the same time. Discounted parking is available at public garages in lots around the city.
"With winter in New England, you never know what to expect," Walsh said during a Monday news conference. "But in Boston, we're always prepared and we're going to continue to be."
Space savers are not allowed at all in the South End by agreement, Walsh noted, but space savers are allowed up to 48 hours after the end of a snow emergency. After that, anything in the spot will be considered trash and disposed of next week. Walsh asked people to help elderly neighbors as well as shovel out fire hydrants.
"I'm asking everyone - as I always do - to help," Walsh said, noting that property owners are required to clean snow and ice on sidewalks and curb ramps abutting their property within three hours after snowfall.
Street sweeping is cancelled until until further notice, while trash and recycling pickup will continue on a regular schedule Monday and Tuesday. Walsh urged Bostonians to take precautions on the roads and sidewalks, particularly during Monday evening and Tuesday morning commutes.
"I want to thank the people of Boston for their hard work for helping our city get through the first major snowstorm of 2021," Walsh said.
Walsh said the parking ban will be in effect from main roads that have restrictions during snow emergencies as well as in Boston Public School lots.
"We want to be able to get in there and and clean it out so that they can be ready for school," Walsh said.
All Boston Public School buildings will be closed both Monday and Tuesday, the district announced. Students will attend classes online for partial days that will end 2.5 hours earlier than regular dismissal. In-person learning is scheduled to resume Thursday, Feb. 4.
"We're disappointed that the weather is not cooperating with our plans," Walsh said. "We were planning today to return more than 4,000 students to in-person learning in the city of Boston."
"But we're grateful to our teachers, custodians, food service workers, bus drivers and our school leaders who have been working around the clock to prepare for the return of our kids today," Walsh said. "And we look forward to welcoming back to the students and staff in just a few short days."
All Boston Public School meal sites will be opened until 2 p.m. Monday.
More than 100 school districts across the region and nearly 500 in New England announced remote learning days, early dismissals and closures Monday in anticipation of the major storm.
Since much of the region could see blizzard-like conditions, vaccine locations around the area are make scheduling changes.
Pavement temperatures are below freezing throughout the state, which allows snow to quickly accumulate.
The speed limit on I-90 eastbound and westbound between the New York border and mile marker 55 in Ludlow has been reduced to 40 m.p.h. due to the weather, according to a spokeswoman with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the HOV lane will be closed Monday afternoon on I-93 between Boston and Quincy.
Boston Public Works has over 700 pieces of equipment on hand for snow removal along with 42,000 tons of salt. MassDOT deployed 464 pieces of equipment in ice and snow operations Monday morning, according to spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard.
Approximately 3,900 pieces of state and vendor equipment is available for snow and ice operations, including over 1,400 plow and spreader combos, 2,100 plows, and 460 front-end loaders, Baker said Sunday.
Because it was so cold over the weekend, MassDOT couldn't pretreat the roads with ice melt liquid. But Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver isn’t overly concerned since temperatures were expected to rise as this storm moved in.
"In this case we’re not getting a lot of benefit from the pretreatment," Gulliver said, "So it’s something we missed out on that we usually like to do that we’re not going to be able to because of this extreme cold right now.”
“Because of the nature of this type of storm, we’re not as worried about the icing because of the temperatures that we’re expecting to see throughout the start of this," Gulliver said.
Eastern Salt in Chelsea filled tractor trailers with salt for the past several days, trucking it all over the state in preparation for this storm, according to Regional Manager Cornelius Martin.
“They’ll plow and then they’ll put salt down, luckily it’s supposed to warm up a little bit, the salt’s more effective when it’s a little warmer than when it’s a little colder," Martin said. "At 30 degrees, a pound of salt melts something like 46 pounds of ice. As it gets colder, it’s less effective so you need more salt.”
Another challenge posed for crews by the coronavirus pandemic is that MassDOT can’t provide break areas. But the pandemic helps in some ways because many people are already working remotely, including all non-emergency state workers in the executive branch.
Baker directed all non-essential state employees to stay home from work on Monday, Feb. 1, given the impending storm.
The Registry of Motor Vehicle customer service centers close at noon on Monday, while all other Executive Branch state offices will be closed to the public, according to Baker's office.
The administration is urging residents to stay off roadways and to use public transportation when possible as the storm moves across the commonwealth by mid-day Monday.